Algorithmic Decision-making and the Law


  • Dirk Brand Stellenbosch University



algorithms, algorithmic decision-making, accountability, transparency, artificial intelligence, automated decision-making, Rechtsstaat


The Fourth Industrial Revolution is reshaping the world we know dramatically and is characterised by a close interaction between the biological, digital and physical spheres.  Digital technologies are impacting all facets of our lives and create a series of new opportunities but also various challenges.  The Fourth Industrial Revolution does not follow a linear development trajectory, but due to the diverse nature and rapid pace of technological developments, could rather be compared to a series of networks with multiple connecting points.  This has caused the development of the law which deals with these concerns to generally be slow and unable to match the pace and scope of technological developments. In the context of public law there are many questions and challenges relating to individual rights, for example the right to privacy, and the role and responsibilities of government relating to policy development and regulation dealing with the Fourth Industrial Revolution.  The concept of a Rechtsstaat could arguably provide an appropriate legal framework for shaping the ethical framework, normative standards and a value-based governance model for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, including for algorithmic decision-making. The public law concept of accountability should be contextualised in order to apply it to algorithmic decision-making.  In the data-driven economy of the 21st century the pace and scope of technological developments that impact humanity requires the development of appropriate legal frameworks to reflect and accommodate the needs of society, in particular relating to the recognition of fundamental human rights.  It is concluded that  a broad set of ethical and legal principles, which can guide the development of international and national legal frameworks to regulate algorithmic decision-making, is needed.


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How to Cite

Brand, D. (2020). Algorithmic Decision-making and the Law. JeDEM - EJournal of EDemocracy and Open Government, 12(1), 114–131.



Research Papers