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Biometrics: Equality

Question for Women and Equalities

UIN 49138, tabled on 14 September 2021

To ask the Minister for Women and Equalities, with reference to the Centre for Data and Ethics Investigations report of November 2020, Review into bias in Algorithmic Decision-making, what steps the Government has taken to clarify the Equality Act responsibilities of organisations using algorithmic decision-making; and whether the Government plans to bring forward proposed amendments to the Equality Act in respect of algorithmic bias in decision-making.

Answered on

22 September 2021

The Equality Act 2010 (the Act) prohibits employers and service providers from discriminating against employees, job applicants and customers because of or in relation to a protected characteristic. This includes discrimination through actions taken as a result of deploying an algorithm or a similar artificial intelligence mechanism. The key test is how the employer or service provider acts and whether this is lawful under the Act, not the tools used in the decision-making process.

It is for the courts to interpret and apply the law, including where new and evolving technology is at play. To date, it has not been necessary to consider amendments to the Equality Act 2010 in this context and the Government has no plans to bring forward such legislation. However, we will continue to monitor developments.

On 10 September 2021 the government launched a public consultation, Data: A new direction. The consultation proposes reforms to enable organisations to use personal data and sensitive personal data for the purpose of managing the risk of bias in their AI systems. The consultation will close on 19 November 2021.

In addition, the Equality and Human Rights Commission is developing guidance for the public sector on algorithmic decision-making.

Answered by

Women and Equalities