Eco-Scoring: How EPEAT ratings encourage a more sustainable tech future

The Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) has come a long way since being introduced in 2006. Managed by the non-profit organization Green Electronics Council and originally commissioned by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the EPEAT algorithm helps governments, institutions, consumers, and other purchasers evaluate the effect of a product on the environment. During […]

Medicare algorithms will estimate patient race and ethnicity

In August 2021, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) authorized the implementation of an algorithm that tries to predict the racial and ethnic identities of patients. While this may allow the CMS to identify racial and ethnic groups that suffer from lacking health equity, its use can be controversial, particularly when the accuracy […]

​​Scoring Environmental Inequality: How California is paving the way for the U.S.

Last month, California released a new draft of the California Communities Environmental Health Screening Tool (CalEnviroScreen), a web-based tool for identifying communities that are disproportionately burdened and endangered by pollution. Using environmental, health, and socioeconomic data from state and federal sources, CalEnviroScreen scores the pollution burden of every census tract in the state and presents […]

New algorithms to score candidates for lifesaving organ donations

COVID-19 has been in the spotlight not only in the news, but also in how technologies are being developed to evaluate and control the spread of the virus. For example, various state guidelines outline how ventilators, personal protective equipment, and COVID-19 vaccines should be prioritized in hospitals, ambulances, and communities, respectively. But while the pandemic […]

School districts use machine learning to identify high school drop-out risk

On-time graduation is an important metric for public high schools across the United States. Large “graduation gaps” point to the inequities and shortcomings of the American education system, and federal law requires states and districts to report high school graduation rates and intervene in schools with low rates. Improving drop-out rates is difficult, however, as […]

Algorithmic pretrial risk assessment may just be more common than you think

Californians recently voted to reject Proposition 25, which sought to replace cash bail throughout the state with algorithmic risk assessments. But, like it or not, government agencies are already moving forward with algorithmic pretrial reform efforts. For example, the Los Angeles Superior Court piloted a program in March 2020 that utilizes a tool to calculate […]

Government agencies, big and small, are increasingly adopting controversial algorithms for hiring

As with private companies and nonprofit organizations, government agencies—both big and small—are adopting automation in Human Resources (HR) decision-making processes. For example, federal and local government agencies use algorithms to handle leave requests, issue certifications, and run background investigations. Algorithms, however, don’t eliminate discrimination and other inequities in hiring processes; rather, they can even exacerbate […]

With climate-related floods on the rise, FEMA is updating an algorithm that impacts 96% of flood insurance in the U.S.

The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) has set insurance rates in the same way since the 1970s. Over the last fifty years, however, the program has faced mounting financial issues and criticism from policymakers, fiscal conservatives, environmentalists and other stakeholders. In response, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the department that manages the NFIP, recently […]

Government COVID-19 algorithms: multiple formats, approaches and challenges

Many government agencies, state and federal, have deployed a variety of algorithms to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Given that these automated systems can take a myriad of forms, investigating them can also require a variety of approaches. In this way, COVID-related algorithms show how challenging reporting on automated decision-making systems can be: just as government […]

Facing the threat of budget cuts, Energy Star needs updates to continue saving money

Energy Star is a government program that helps consumers avoid $30 billion in energy costs every year. But the program is constantly threatened by administrative pressures and the need to be updated. Energy Star is an example of how the success and failure of an algorithm is not only dependent on its internal design or […]