Laura worked for almost a decade as a human rights researcher and policy advisor for Amnesty International where she focused on the rights to equality and protection from discrimination worldwide, before returning to academia. She is now undertaking her PhD studies in Human Rights Research Methods at the University of Essex supervised by Professor Lorna McGregor, as part of the ESRC-funded Human Rights, Big Data and Technology Project.
She is interested in the automation of decision-making in the public sector: how government authorities use data-driven technologies to score, assess and sort people; the impact of these technologies on the ability of people to exercise and enjoy their human rights; and how automated systems can be held to account for their decisions. She is particularly interested in the ways that gender stereotypes and assumptions are encoded into computerised systems, and the choices that the designers and developers of these systems make when they are building automated systems.
Laura holds a BA in Mathematics from the University of Cambridge and an MA in Gender Studies from SOAS University of London. She will be at the Turing for a six-month Enrichment placement from January to June 2020.
Laura is researching the impact of automated decision-making on human rights. She is interested in the use of data-driven technologies by public sector actors to score, assess, and sort people; the consequences of these decisions on individual lives; and how automated systems – and the institutions that use them – can be held to account for their decisions.
She is particularly interested in how gender stereotypes and assumptions are encoded into predictive models, and how data-driven systems risk perpetuating or exacerbating existing societal inequalities. Data science is not neutral: the choices that the designers and developers make as they build automation systems can and do have an impact on people’s lives. Laura uses a feminist lens to examine the power structures that exist in the development of automated decision-making systems, and to track and understand their impact on people who are already marginalised.
While at the Turing, Laura aims to work with data scientists building predictive and scoring systems in order to understand how they make decisions in their work and to collaborate on identifying, understanding and combating choices that can lead to discrimination. She also aims to work with the Turing’s public policy and ethics experts on guidance and regulation for automation in the public sector.