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GDPR Does Entail a Right to Explanation

Research. There has been much dispute over GDPR and whether it entails a right to explanation of e.g. algorithmic decision-making. According to a paper from Andrew D. Selbst, Data & Society, and Julia Powles, University of Cambridge that right is definitely enshrined.

The two authors refer to papers that have concluded that there is no such think as a right to explanation, e.g. one from Sandra Wachter, Brent Mittelstadt, and Luciano Floridi from Oxford University that asserts that there is no such right. Selbst and Powles do, however, conclude:

  • There is no single, neat statutory provision labeled the “right to explanation” in Europe’s new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). But nor is such a right illusory.
  • Responding to two prominent papers that, in turn, conjure and critique the right to explanation in the context of automated decision-making, we advocate a return to the text of the GDPR.
  • Articles 13–15 provide rights to “meaningful information about the logic involved” in automated decisions. This is a right to explanation, whether one uses the phrase or not.
  • The right to explanation should be interpreted functionally, flexibly, and should, at a minimum, enable a data subject to exercise his or her rights under the GDPR and human rights law.

Read the full study here