A Framework for Assurance Audits of Algorithmic Systems

Proceedings of the 2024 Acm Conference on Fairness, Accountability, and Transparency (forthcoming)
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An increasing number of regulations propose the notion of ‘AI audits’ as an enforcement mechanism for achieving transparency and accountability for artificial intelligence (AI) systems. Despite some converging norms around various forms of AI auditing, auditing for the purpose of compliance and assurance currently have little to no agreed upon practices, procedures, taxonomies, and standards. We propose the ‘criterion audit’ as an operationalizable compliance and assurance external audit framework. We model elements of this approach after financial auditing practices, and argue that AI audits should similarly provide assurance to their stakeholders about AI organizations’ ability to govern their algorithms in ways that mitigate harms and uphold human values. We discuss the necessary conditions for the criterion audit, and provide a procedural blueprint for performing an audit engagement in practice. We illustrate how this framework can be adapted to current regulations by deriving the criteria on which ‘bias audits’ for hiring algorithms can be performed, as required by the recently effective New York City Local Law 144 of 2021. We conclude by offering critical discussion on the benefits, inherent limitations, and implementation challenges of applying practices of the more mature financial auditing industry to AI auditing where robust guardrails against quality assurance issues are only starting to emerge. Our discussion as informed by experiences in performing these audits in practice highlights the critical role that an audit ecosystem plays in ensuring the effectiveness of such methodology.

Author Profiles

Benjamin Lange
Ludwig Maximilians Universität, München
Borhane Blili-Hamelin
Columbia University (PhD)
Jovana Davidovic
University of Iowa
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