Paper session 5: Fairness in the Long Run

Thu 20 15:30 PDT

#185 Fair Machine Learning under Partial Compliance

Jessica Dai, Sina Fazelpour, Zachary Lipton

Typically, fair machine learning research focuses on a single decision maker and assumes that the underlying population is stationary. However, many of the critical domains motivating this work are characterized by competitive marketplaces with many decision makers. Realistically, we might expect only a subset of them to adopt any non-compulsory fairness-conscious policy, a situation that political philosophers call partial compliance. This possibility raises important questions: how does partial compliance and the consequent strategic behavior of decision subjects affect the allocation outcomes? If k% of employers were to voluntarily adopt a fairness-promoting intervention, should we expect k% progress (in aggregate) towards the benefits of universal adoption, or will the dynamics of partial compliance wash out the hoped-for benefits? How might adopting a global (versus local) perspective impact the conclusions of an auditor? In this paper, we propose a simple model of an employment market, leveraging simulation as a tool to explore the impact of both interaction effects and incentive effects on outcomes and auditing metrics. Our key findings are that at equilibrium:(1) partial compliance by k% of employers can result in far less than proportional (k%) progress towards the full compliance outcomes;(2) the gap is more severe when fair employers match global (vs local) statistics;(3) choices of local vs global statistics can paint dramatically different pictures of the performance vis-a-vis fairness desiderata of compliant versus non-compliant employers;(4) partial compliance based on local parity measures can induce extreme segregation.Finally, we discuss implications for auditors and insights concerning the design of regulatory frameworks.

Thu 20 15:45 PDT

#222 Fairness and Data Protection Impact Assessments

Atoosa Kasirzadeh, Damian Clifford

In this paper, we critically examine the effectiveness of the requirement to conduct a Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA) in Article 35 of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in light of fairness metrics. Through this analysis, we explore the role of the fairness principle as introduced in Article 5(1)(a) and its multifaceted interpretation in the obligation to conduct a DPIA. Our paper argues that although there is a significant theoretical role for the considerations of fairness in the DPIA process, an analysis of the various guidance documents issued by data protection authorities on the obligation to conduct a DPIA reveals that they rarely mention the fairness principle in practice. Our analysis questions this omission, and assesses the capacity of fairness metrics to be truly operationalized within DPIAs. We conclude by exploring the practical effectiveness of DPIA with particular reference to (1) technical challenges that have an impact on the usefulness of DPIAs irrespective of a controller’s willingness to actively engage in the process, (2) the context dependent nature of the fairness principle, and (3) the key role played by data controllers in the determination of what is fair.

Thu 20 16:00 PDT

#224 Precarity: Modeling the Long-Term Effects of Compounded Decisions on Individual Instability

Pegah Nokhiz, Aravinda Kanchana Ruwanpathirana, Neal Patwari, Suresh Venkatasubramanian

When it comes to studying the impacts of decision making, the research has been largely focused on examining the fairness of the decisions, the long-term effects of the decision pipelines, and utility-based perspectives considering both the decision-maker and the individuals. However, there has hardly been any focus on \emph{precarity} which is the term that encapsulates the instability in people’s lives. That is, a negative outcome can overspread to other decisions and measures of well-being. Studying precarity necessitates a shift in focus — from the point of view of the decision-maker to the perspective of the decision subject. This centering of the subject is an important direction that unlocks the importance of parting with aggregate measures to examine the long-term effects of decision making. To address this issue, in this paper, we propose a modeling framework that simulates the effects of compounded decision-making on precarity over time. Through our simulations, we are able to show the heterogeneity of precarity by the non-uniform ruinous aftereffects of negative decisions on different income classes of the underlying population and how policy interventions can help mitigate such effects.