Every day, people are denied healthcare, overpoliced, kept in jail, and passed up for jobs because of decisions made or aided by computers. These automated decision-making systems are increasingly affecting our lives, even though we don’t always know it. Although some function simply as calculators, helping government officials apply complex rules to individual circumstances, often these systems reinforce and perpetuate biases, leading to discriminatory impacts that are difficult, if not impossible, to explain and challenge. And more and more often, government agencies are using secret formulas, or algorithms, that the agencies themselves can’t even examine, let alone understand.  

This series covers how government agencies in Washington are using automated decision-making systems that affect people’s lives in harmful ways.