Tuesday 12pm, 16 October 2018

Allison woodruff

A Qualitative Exploration of Perceptions of Algorithmic Fairness

Allison Woodruff

User Experience Researcher - Google


Algorithmic systems increasingly shape information people are exposed to as well as influence decisions about employment, finances, and other opportunities. In some cases, algorithmic systems may be more or less favorable to certain groups or individuals, sparking substantial discussion of algorithmic fairness in public policy circles, academia, and the press. We broaden this discussion by exploring how members of potentially affected communities feel about algorithmic fairness. We conducted workshops and interviews with 44 participants from several populations traditionally marginalized by categories of race or class in the United States. While the concept of algorithmic fairness was largely unfamiliar, learning about algorithmic (un)fairness elicited negative feelings that connect to current national discussions about racial injustice and economic inequality. In addition to their concerns about potential harms to themselves and society, participants also indicated that algorithmic fairness (or lack thereof) could substantially affect their trust in a company or product.


Allison Woodruff is a user experience researcher at Google, currently focusing on privacy and algorithmic fairness. Prior to working at Google, Allison worked at the Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) and Intel Labs Berkeley. Allison is a co-inventor on 20 issued patents and has published extensively on topics such as algorithmic fairness, privacy, mobile computing, domestic technology, sustainability, citizen science, and information visualization. She has conducted research in a wide range of settings, such as green homes, low-income neighborhoods, religious environments, museums, amusement parks, traditional work environments, and street sweeper maintenance yards. She received her PhD in Computer Science from UC Berkeley.