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Jailed By An Algorithm

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May 1, 2017

A Wisconsin man was sent to prison for six years, a sentence partially based on a recommendation from Compas, a private company that uses its proprietary IP in the form of an algorithm to predict the likelihood of recidivism. Such algorithms play a role in many states’ criminal justice systems. They set bail, determine sentences, “and even contribute to determinations about guilt or innocence,” according to a report from the Electronic Privacy Information Center foundation. The Wisconsin man was unable to inspect or challenge the assumptions used to predict his future behavior because the algorithm is held secret. The Supreme Court is reportedly considering an appeal of the sentencing procedure.

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