Will you be able to sort your email without submitting an “algorithmic accountability report” to the state?

An interesting bill crept up on us last week that has some unfortunate consequences.  HB 1655, sponsored by Rep. Hudgins, was heard on Feb. 6th and is scheduled for executive action on February 15th. This bill prohibits public agencies from developing, procuring, or using an automated decision-making system for certain uses.

Automated decision-making systems are broadly defined as “any algorithm, including one incorporating machine learning or other artificial intelligence techniques, that uses data-based analytics to make or support government decisions, judgments, or conclusions.”

In order to use an automated decision-making system, a public agency must complete an algorithmic accountability report and have it approved by a newly created chief privacy officer. If the system is approved, the public agency must give notice to individuals impact by the system and how the individual can contest any decision made involving the system, ensure the system is made public along with the data, allow for appeal of the decisions made by the system, and be able to explain the basis for its decision.

Any procurement contracts for these systems require the vendors to waive any legal claims that may impair the minimum standards set forth and do not allow for nondisclosure provisions. Any person injured by a violation of these standards may institute proceedings against the public agency.

What does this mean to counties? All parts of government use automated decision systems. The courts use risk assessment tools that help them make bail and release decisions. Police and sheriffs use automated systems to help them determine areas of patrol emphasis. Sex offender registries could be affected. The timing of traffic lights and traffic pattern information is based on automated systems.

License plate scanners help officers make decisions. There are systems governments use to sort public records requests. The impact of this bill is massive. We have sent emails outlining our concerns to the prime sponsor and members of the committee. We just don’t think this is a very well thought out bill and hope it gets removed from the agenda this week.

Juliana Roe comes to WSAC with almost a decade of experience working as non-partisan staff in the Washington State Senate. She has a strong legal background and knowledge of our court system as she served as a law clerk for Chief Justice Alexander for the Washington State Supreme Court, as well as a Deputy Prosecuting Attorney for the Pierce County Prosecutor’s Office. Juliana received her Juris Doctorate from Seattle University School of Law, and her Bachelor of Arts from the University of Washington. She represents WSAC on issues relating to public safety, law and justice, and human services.