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Perspective

The Right Way to Regulate Algorithms

They’re intended to make decision-making more objective. But data-based tools will have the opposite effect if they aren’t subject to public scrutiny.
Computer generated "predictive policing," zones at the Los Angeles Police Department Unified Command Post.
Computer generated "predictive policing," zones at the Los Angeles Police Department Unified Command Post.Damian Dovarganes/AP

Which public school will your child attend? How severe a sentence will you receive in the criminal justice system? Will you earn tenure as a teacher? In many cities, a new force is playing a critical role in answering these questions: algorithms.

Cities rely on algorithms to help make decisions that affect people’s lives in meaningful ways, from assessing teacher performance to predicting the likelihood of criminal re-offense. And yet, the general public knows almost nothing about how they work.