Data Protection Bill [HL] - Committee (3rd Day) (Continued)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:45 pm on 13th November 2017.

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Photo of Lord Whitty Lord Whitty Chair, EU Internal Market Sub-Committee, Chair, EU Internal Market Sub-Committee 6:45 pm, 13th November 2017

My Lords, my name is attached to two of these amendments. This is a very difficult subject in that we are all getting used to algorithmic decisions; not many people call them that, but they are what in effect decide major issues in their life and entice them into areas where they did not previously choose to be. Their profile, based on a number of inter-related algorithms, suggests that they may be interested in a particular commercial product or lifestyle move. It is quite difficult for those of my generation to grasp that, and difficult also for the legislative process to grasp it. So some of these amendments go back to first principles. The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, said that the issue of human rights trumps everything. Of course, we all agree with that, but human rights do not work unless you have methods of enforcing them.

In other walks of life, there are precedents. You may not be able to identify exactly who took a decision that, for example, women in a workforce should be paid significantly less than men for what were broadly equivalent jobs; it had probably gone on for decades. There was no clear paper trail to establish that discrimination took place but, nevertheless, the outcome was discriminatory. With algorithms, it is clear that some of the outcomes may be discriminatory, but you would not be able to put your finger on why they were discriminatory, let alone who or what decided that that discrimination should take place. Nevertheless, if the outcome is discriminatory, you need a way of redressing it. That is why the amendments to which I have added my name effectively say that the data subject should be made aware of the use to which their data is being made and that they would have the right of appeal to the Information Commissioner and of redress, as you would in a human-based decision-making process that was obscure in its origin but clear in relation to its outcome. That may be a slightly simplistic way in which to approach the issue, but it is a logical one that needs to be reflected in the Bill, and I hope that the Government take the amendments seriously.