Ethics of Algorithms


Algorithms are increasingly used to make decisions for us, about us, or with us. From areas of life that did not exist more than a decade ago, like online search or social media news areas, to fields where decisions used to be made exclusively via human judgement, such as health care or employment, algorithms are becoming important tools, or even sole decision-makers.


Ethics of Algorithms at a glance

This publication was prepared by Kilian Vieth and Joanna Bronowicka from Centre for Internet and Human Rights at European University Viadrina. It was based on a publication “The Ethics of Algorithms: from radical content to self-driving cars”. You can find the publication as a website here and a printable version in pdf format here. The version in Arabic is available here.

Report “The Ethics of Algorithms: from radical content to self-driving cars”

Following a two-day event on the Ethics of Algorithms a report was prepared by the CIHR with contributions from Zeynep Tufekci, Jillian C. York, Ben Wagner and Frederike Kaltheuner. The report argues that three attributes cause algorithms to raise ethical challenges: the fact that many algorithms are complex and opaque, that they operate as gatekeepers and that they are rapidly encroaching into “subjective” decision-making where there is no right or wrong answer. You can download the full report here.

Academic Article: “Seeing like a Data Set”

Thomas Behrndt and Ben Wagner published an article in the 2015 Annual Review of Law and Ethics entitled “Seeing like a Data Set: Reimagining Security through Big Data.” The Annual Review of Law and Ethics is edited by Prof. Jan C. Joerden and published by Duncker und Humblot in Berlin. A PDF copy of the article is available on request by contacting Ben Wagner.

Research Paper: “Algorithmic regulation and the global default: Shifting norms in Internet technology”

How to approach algorithmic regulation? In this study on governance of norms in technology, Ben Wagner outlines a two-tier approach towards regulatory rules for algorithms. To unpack the issue of algorithmic regulation, the paper introduces the concept of first- and second-order regulatory rules. This allows to clarify and evaluate the modes of algorithmic regulation we are talking about. The paper is available open access.EoA_pub


Ethics of Algorithms Conference, Berlin, 9-10 March, 2015

During a two-day event CIHR brought together leading experts from academia, technology and civil society to discuss the ethical dimensions of algorithms. The exchanges initiated during the Ethics of Algorithms event in Berlin helped to deepen our understanding of the way algorithms govern our lives now and refine questions for future research. Here is the agenda and the summary of the event.

Global Conference on Cyberspace, The Hague, 2015

Discussions in Berlin and the report fed into a panel discussions at the Global Conference on Cyberspace, which took place in the Hague on 16 April 2015. You can watch the video of the panel here.

Two workshops at the Internet Governance Forum, Brazil, 10-13 November, 2015

Workshop no. 125 When Governments Hit ‘Like’ on the ‘War on Terror’, Wednesday, 11 November

In recent months, several countries, including France, UK and Spain, proposed comprehensive anti-terror legislation giving government new surveillance and filtering powers in the online sphere. These measures introduced by governments raise considerable human rights concerns, because of their implications to freedom of expression online, the right to privacy and protection from discrimination.

Link to the proposal, the full transcript and the video of the workshop.

Workshop no. 48 Internet of Things. Ethics for the Digital Age, Friday 13 November

Internet of Things puts fundamental ethical choices to the world. It comes with innovation, ease, but also questions and potential threats to livelihoods, security, internet governance and privacy. So, whether in employability, education, algorithms and human-“thing” interaction, societies face developments that have an enormous impact in fundamental ways. Ethical discussions have started but need direction and focus.

Link to the proposal, the full transcript and the video of the workshop.

Join the discussion on Twitter

You can use hashtag #EoA2015 in order to join the discussion about Ethics of Algorithms on Twitter.


These stickers were designed to stimulate the public debate about Ethics of Algorithms. They are  in the public domain: Creative Commons licence CC0, No rights reserved.




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The research was supported by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.