Algorithms are finding their way into all areas of our lives—from determining what news stories pop up in your social media feed to suggesting new music or restaurants. But should they have a hand in shaping jail sentences and predicting public policies? Government agencies are now using algorithms and data mining to predict outcomes and behaviors in individuals, and to aid decision-making.
Although there is an uptick in algorithmic use, the code behind these tools is not always made public. In a study out this week in Science Advances, computer scientist Hany Farid and a colleague examined one tool used for predicting recidivism risk, the likelihood that criminals will commit a crime again. According to their analysis, the algorithm was no more accurate in predicting recidivism rates than untrained individuals.