(f) Rule of law and accountability

Rule of law, access to justice and the right to redress and a fair trial provide the necessary framework for ensuring the observance of human rights standards and potential AI specific regulations. This includes protections against risks stemming from ‘autonomous’ systems that could infringe human rights, such as safety and privacy. The whole range of legal challenges arising in the field should be addressed with timely investment in the development of robust solutions that provide a fair and clear allocation of responsibilities and efficient mechanisms of binding law. In this regard, governments and international organisations ought to increase their efforts in clarifying with whom liabilities lie for damages caused by undesired behaviour of ‘autonomous’ systems. Moreover, effective harm mitigation systems should be in place.
Principle: Ethical principles and democratic prerequisites, Mar 9, 2018

Published by European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies, European Commission

Related Principles

Ensuring Accountability

Principle: Legal accountability has to be ensured when human agency is replaced by decisions of AI agents. Recommendations: Ensure legal certainty: Governments should ensure legal certainty on how existing laws and policies apply to algorithmic decision making and the use of autonomous systems to ensure a predictable legal environment. This includes working with experts from all disciplines to identify potential gaps and run legal scenarios. Similarly, those designing and using AI should be in compliance with existing legal frameworks. Put users first: Policymakers need to ensure that any laws applicable to AI systems and their use put users’ interests at the center. This must include the ability for users to challenge autonomous decisions that adversely affect their interests. Assign liability up front: Governments working with all stakeholders need to make some difficult decisions now about who will be liable in the event that something goes wrong with an AI system, and how any harm suffered will be remedied.

Published by Internet Society, "Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning: Policy Paper" in Guiding Principles and Recommendations, Apr 18, 2017


New developments in Artificial Intelligence are transforming the world, from science and industry to government administration and finance. The rise of AI decision making also implicates fundamental rights of fairness, accountability, and transparency. Modern data analysis produces significant outcomes that have real life consequences for people in employment, housing, credit, commerce, and criminal sentencing. Many of these techniques are entirely opaque, leaving individuals unaware whether the decisions were accurate, fair, or even about them. We propose these Universal Guidelines to inform and improve the design and use of AI. The Guidelines are intended to maximize the benefits of AI, to minimize the risk, and to ensure the protection of human rights. These Guidelines should be incorporated into ethical standards, adopted in national law and international agreements, and built into the design of systems. We state clearly that the primary responsibility for AI systems must reside with those institutions that fund, develop, and deploy these systems.

Published by The Public Voice coalition, established by Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) in Universal Guidelines for Artificial Intelligence, Oct 23, 2018

· Right to Privacy, and Data Protection

Privacy, a right essential to the protection of human dignity, human autonomy and human agency, must be respected, protected and promoted throughout the life cycle of AI systems. It is important that data for AI systems be collected, used, shared, archived and deleted in ways that are consistent with international law and in line with the values and principles set forth in this Recommendation, while respecting relevant national, regional and international legal frameworks. Adequate data protection frameworks and governance mechanisms should be established in a multi stakeholder approach at the national or international level, protected by judicial systems, and ensured throughout the life cycle of AI systems. Data protection frameworks and any related mechanisms should take reference from international data protection principles and standards concerning the collection, use and disclosure of personal data and exercise of their rights by data subjects while ensuring a legitimate aim and a valid legal basis for the processing of personal data, including informed consent. Algorithmic systems require adequate privacy impact assessments, which also include societal and ethical considerations of their use and an innovative use of the privacy by design approach. AI actors need to ensure that they are accountable for the design and implementation of AI systems in such a way as to ensure that personal information is protected throughout the life cycle of the AI system.

Published by The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in Draft Text of The Recommendation on the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence, Nov 24, 2021

· Transparency and explainability

The transparency and explainability of AI systems are often essential preconditions to ensure the respect, protection and promotion of human rights, fundamental freedoms and ethical principles. Transparency is necessary for relevant national and international liability regimes to work effectively. A lack of transparency could also undermine the possibility of effectively challenging decisions based on outcomes produced by AI systems and may thereby infringe the right to a fair trial and effective remedy, and limits the areas in which these systems can be legally used. While efforts need to be made to increase transparency and explainability of AI systems, including those with extra territorial impact, throughout their life cycle to support democratic governance, the level of transparency and explainability should always be appropriate to the context and impact, as there may be a need to balance between transparency and explainability and other principles such as privacy, safety and security. People should be fully informed when a decision is informed by or is made on the basis of AI algorithms, including when it affects their safety or human rights, and in those circumstances should have the opportunity to request explanatory information from the relevant AI actor or public sector institutions. In addition, individuals should be able to access the reasons for a decision affecting their rights and freedoms, and have the option of making submissions to a designated staff member of the private sector company or public sector institution able to review and correct the decision. AI actors should inform users when a product or service is provided directly or with the assistance of AI systems in a proper and timely manner. From a socio technical lens, greater transparency contributes to more peaceful, just, democratic and inclusive societies. It allows for public scrutiny that can decrease corruption and discrimination, and can also help detect and prevent negative impacts on human rights. Transparency aims at providing appropriate information to the respective addressees to enable their understanding and foster trust. Specific to the AI system, transparency can enable people to understand how each stage of an AI system is put in place, appropriate to the context and sensitivity of the AI system. It may also include insight into factors that affect a specific prediction or decision, and whether or not appropriate assurances (such as safety or fairness measures) are in place. In cases of serious threats of adverse human rights impacts, transparency may also require the sharing of code or datasets. Explainability refers to making intelligible and providing insight into the outcome of AI systems. The explainability of AI systems also refers to the understandability of the input, output and the functioning of each algorithmic building block and how it contributes to the outcome of the systems. Thus, explainability is closely related to transparency, as outcomes and ub processes leading to outcomes should aim to be understandable and traceable, appropriate to the context. AI actors should commit to ensuring that the algorithms developed are explainable. In the case of AI applications that impact the end user in a way that is not temporary, easily reversible or otherwise low risk, it should be ensured that the meaningful explanation is provided with any decision that resulted in the action taken in order for the outcome to be considered transparent. Transparency and explainability relate closely to adequate responsibility and accountability measures, as well as to the trustworthiness of AI systems.

Published by The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in Draft Text of The Recommendation on the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence, Nov 24, 2021

· Responsibility and accountability

AI actors and Member States should respect, protect and promote human rights and fundamental freedoms, and should also promote the protection of the environment and ecosystems, assuming their respective ethical and legal responsibility, in accordance with national and international law, in particular Member States’ human rights obligations, and ethical guidance throughout the life cycle of AI systems, including with respect to AI actors within their effective territory and control. The ethical responsibility and liability for the decisions and actions based in any way on an AI system should always ultimately be attributable to AI actors corresponding to their role in the life cycle of the AI system. Appropriate oversight, impact assessment, audit and due diligence mechanisms, including whistle blowers’ protection, should be developed to ensure accountability for AI systems and their impact throughout their life cycle. Both technical and institutional designs should ensure auditability and traceability of (the working of) AI systems in particular to address any conflicts with human rights norms and standards and threats to environmental and ecosystem well being.

Published by The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in Draft Text of The Recommendation on the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence, Nov 24, 2021