Jeannette Wing Named to New York City Task Force to Study Algorithms Used by the City

Columbia News
May 17, 2018

City’s effort to ensure equity, fairness, and accountability in algorithms consistent with “data for good” mission of Columbia’s Data Science Institute

Jeannette M. Wing, Avanessians Director of the Data Science Institute and Professor of Computer Science at Columbia University, has been appointed to a New York City task force that will develop a process for reviewing how the city uses automatic decision systems, or algorithms.

In announcing the task force, the first of its kind in the United States, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio explained, “As data and technology become more central to the work of city government, the algorithms we use to aid decision making must be aligned with our goals and values. The establishment of the Automated Decision Systems Task Force is an important first step towards greater transparency and equity in our use of technology.”

The Mayor has directed the task force to review the city’s use of algorithms “through the lens of equity, fairness, and accountability,” and in December 2019, deliver recommendations on procedures for reviewing and assessing City government’s algorithmic tools.

“It has been my mission at Columbia’s Data Science Institute to promote the notion of ‘data for good,’” said Wing. “I am honored to be chosen for this important work.” Wing, who took on the Data Science Institute’s directorship in July 2017, is a staunch advocate for the responsible application of methods for extracting value from data.

Wing joins individuals from the academic and legal communities, experts in data and technology, and leaders of nonprofits and think tanks. They include Jennifer Rodgers, executive director of Columbia Law School’s Center for the Advancement of Public Integrity at Columbia Law School, which works with government offices to combat corruption and advocate for best practices.

The task force also includes representatives from the New York City Department of Social Services, the New York City Police Department, the Department of Transportation, the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, the Administration for Children’s Services, and the Department of Education. 

The task force will be co-chaired by Emily W. Newman, acting director of the Mayor’s Office of Operations, and Brittny Saunders, deputy commissioner for strategic initiatives at the Commission on Human Rights.