'Fuck the algorithm' protests put government use of AI in spotlight

Thousands of disgruntled students gathered outside the DfE in Whitehall protesting against the use of a controversial algorithm used to grade students in the absence of A-Level exams, following the disruption to teaching caused by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

In the absence of exams, the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual) decided to estimate the A-level grades using an algorithm using three inputs - the historical grade distribution of schools from the three previous years, the rank of each student within her own school for a particular subject, based on a teacher’s evaluation of their likely grade had the A-levels gone forward; the previous exam results for a student in the subject. 40 per cent of students ended up receiving lower than predicted grades.

It’s been a bad month for AI, as these protests come hot on the heels of a Court of Appeal ruling that rejected South Wales Police’s use of facial recognition technology. This landmark decision came as the judge determined that facial recognition violated privacy, human rights and had not been shown to exhibit gender or racial bias.

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