The Digital Due Process Clinic provides high-quality, pro bono services to people struggling with automated scoring systems. Based at Cornell University, the program brings together multidisciplinary teams of students who work on real-world problems under the supervision of experienced faculty.
Why Digital Due Process?
Automated scoring systems play an increasingly important role in ordering our lives. Obtaining a loan, renting an apartment, ranking in web search results, or making the shortlist for a job: all of these activities depend on judgments generated through a range of computational techniques like data analytics and predictive algorithms.
Problems do occur when things go wrong and people feel misrepresented by these systems. For example, what recourse does a person have when:
- their credit line is limited because they used their card to pay for marriage counseling (FTC v CompuCredit Corp Complaint, p. 34-35);
- a Google search reveals a range of compromising photos published by a vengeful ex (“The Disturbing Story Behind NYC’s Revenge Porn Perpetrators,” NYPost, Feb 25, 2019);
- an essay-scoring engine penalizes the use of African-American vernacular (“Flawed Algorithms Are Grading Millions of Students’ Essays,” Motherboard, Aug 20, 2019);
- a workplace analytics system flags their mental health (“Your work emails contain subtle clues about your emotional state,” Quartz, Sep. 24, 2019)?
In all these case, the affected parties struggle to obtain what legal scholars call “due process,” i.e. the right not to be judged arbitrarily and to appeal an automated judgment. When systems are complex, proprietary, and opaque and legal recourse is impractical or limited, a special kind of expertise is needed to represent one’s interests.
The Due Process Clinic aims to fill this gap by gathering a multidisciplinary group of students under the supervision of experienced faculty and engaging them in research, advocacy, and outreach, using the tools of humanists, technologists, and social scientists.
Founded in September 2019, the clinic has a changing set of annual priorities. In spring 2020, we will be focussing on web search engines and the challenges of those whose livelihoods depend on them. Capturing and documenting the stories of small business owners, activists, and individuals, our main goal will be to get a better understanding of the problems and the measures people take (or not take) to solve them.
The (Inaugural) 2020 Cohort
Amy EngStudent Researcher
Annika PinchStudent Researcher
Cassidy McGovernStudent Researcher
Ciarra LeeStudent Researcher
Kyra WisniewskiStudent Researcher
Deana GonzalesStudent Researcher
Emma LiStudent Researcher
Sterling Williams-CeciStudent Researcher
Chris HesselbeinGraduate Researcher
Malte ZiewitzDirector; Assistant Professor in Science & Technology Studies
Ngai Keung ChanGraduate Researcher
Ranjit SinghClinical Research Fellow
Interested in joining us? Applications for the 2021 cohort are open until December 11, 2020. If you are thinking about a summer project or an independent study, please send a one-page outline to firstname.lastname@example.org.
August Chang, Student Researcher
Divyansha Sehgal, Student Researcher (now: Deutsche Bank)
Kyla Chasalow, Undergraduate RA (now: University of Oxford)
The Digital Due Process Clinic is a setting in which students:
- assume primary responsibility for deliverables and client matters
- provide excellent support and representation to those affected by automated scoring systems
- develop key digital advocacy skills, including interviewing, counseling, fact investigation, drafting, negotiation, and, in some cases, technological support
- engage in reflective practice, showing the ability to evaluate past performances and continually improve future performances through planning
- collaborate with other clinic students, clinic supervisors, and community partners