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New York City Creates Chief Algorithms Officer Position

The new position, which will operate out of Mayor Bill de Blasio's office, will lead the development of guidelines and best practices surrounding the use of algorithm-based tools by city agencies.

The New York City Mayor's Office has created a senior-level position to manage the city's use of algorithms. 

The Algorithms Management and Policy Officer, created this week through executive order by Mayor Bill de Blasio, will be responsible for bringing leadership to algorithmic tool deployment by public agencies, while also developing and supporting policy for best practices by city staff.  

The position was created after review of a report from the Automated Decision Systems Task Force, a study group put together in 2018 that was responsible for compiling policy suggestions surrounding algorithms. 

Chief among the group's concerns were how to identify and eliminate "implicit or explicit biases," as well as other risks, that might be coded into tools used by the city to deliver services on a daily basis.  

“Fairness and equity are central to improving the lives of New Yorkers,” said de Blasio in a statement. “With every new technology comes added responsibility, and I look forward to welcoming an algorithms management and policy officer to my team to ensure the tools we use to make decisions are fair and transparent.”

The officer will work with and report to the director of the Mayor's Office of Operations, which is made up of other sections of the Mayor's Office that deal heavily with algorithms, such as the Office of Information Privacy, the Office of Data Analytics and the Office for Economic Opportunity.  

At the same time, the officer will also see support from a new steering committee staffed by officials from city agencies and an advisory committee composed of members of the public. Both committees are designed to continue the dialogue around algorithms and technology.

Jeff Thamkittikasem, director of the Mayor’s Office of Operations and Chair of the ADS Task Force, said he was looking forward to the partnership. 

“I’m excited that the mayor is creating a position for someone who will carry forward the important work the city has done around algorithms and decision-making,” he said. “At Operations, we are experts on policies around data, privacy, project management, and economic opportunity, among other related topics. I’m proud of the work the Automated Decision Systems Task Force completed during the past 18 months, and am glad this work will continue within our office.”  

Lucas Ropek is a former staff writer for Government Technology.