Revealing the Government’s Code

by Megan Feldman on September 12, 2017 , Comments Off on Revealing the Government’s Code

The NYC government can be called many things: powerful, all-knowing, and relevant. They are also mysterious. There are thousands of government decisions that are simply impossible to understand with the human mind – perhaps because they are not products of the human mind. Most government decisions are actually created via a complicated algorithm code. This code has been designed to ensure absolute fairness and equality.

All that mystique, though, may soon be subject to change. Mr. James Vacca, a democratic City Council member from the Bronx, has recently introduced a bill that would require the city to publicize the codes that are utilized in making myriad government decisions. Mr. Vacca claims this move would end the secrecy behind these actions and bring back the fairness the code allegedly enforces.

Should this bill go into effect, NYC will become the first major city nationwide to offer complete transparency to its citizens. It’s probable that other major cities will follow suit, creating a massive change across the country.

Governments have access to an endless fountain of data. All that information is fed to the algorithm code, which then makes decisions based on the input. An algorithm may decide which school a child will attend, when garbage pickup will be in each neighborhood, and even which police precincts get the most officers.

The problem lies in the fact that the decisions this code produces are often nonsensical, or even discriminatory. One teacher was ranked at 97% in one class he taught, but only earned a 6% in another class. In a separate instance, ProPublica reporters studied the risk scores of 7,000 people as determined by the code, and found that blacks were more likely to be falsely rated as future criminals – at nearly twice the rate of whites. Algorithm decisions have also placed children in schools several districts away from their home, and have assigned jobs to city workers without accounting for lengthy travel time and personal preferences.

Revealing these codes won’t accomplish much; they are difficult to read and almost impossible to understand. However, researchers are discussing ways to include public participation before they are written. This way, the public will have a say in the decisions that affect their lives.

Since lots of the city’s codes are leased by private corporations, Mr. Vacca proposes that these codes be made available for “algorithmic audits.” These would allow the public to submit test data and review how the algorithm handles it.

As a NYC landlord, you can already appreciate the ramifications the proposed bill would have on your business life. With the algorithm code revealed, there will be no more secrets to any government decisions.

Most importantly, you’ll be able to anticipate when an inspection of your properties is scheduled. Naturally, this will take lots of the stress and the guesswork out of the process. If you know when the city inspectors are coming, you can prepare properly and make sure everything is in order. You’ll be granted the opportunity to do a quick scan of your properties and to fix any problems in order to avoid being issued a violation.

Of course, its best if your buildings are up-to-date with the latest laws and regulations at all times so that you never fear an inspection. We know how difficult that can be, though. That’s where Jack Jaffa & Associates comes in; we make navigating NYC’s compliance code simple. If you need compliance assistance of any kind, be sure to give us a call. We’re always happy to help!