Calls for a code of ethics, concerns about ‘Minority Report’-style crime prediction systems and a proposal for a new legal framework governing data ownership were among the evidence presented to the second public meeting of a landmark probe into the use of algorithms in the justice system.

Appearing before the Technology and Law Policy Commission last week, The Hon Mr Justice Knowles called for the development of an ethical and legal framework for artificial intelligence. ‘AI is going to go deeper into people’s lives than many things have before,’ he told the commission chaired by Law Society president Christina Blacklaws. ‘It is imperative that we take the opportunity for law and ethics to travel with it.’ He noted that the financial sector has shown what happens when innovations are given free rein without codes of behaviour, adding: ‘In business there is a positive incentive to promote ethics and codes, and standards.’

Lord Clement-Jones, co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Artificial Intelligence, said that the response from the technology community to calls for an ethical framework was ‘incredibly positive’. However the big doubt was who would oversee such a framework. He noted that the committee had concluded that the best people to enforce it would be existing regulators. ‘Having a new AI regulator didn’t seem to us to be particularly useful,’ he said.

Earlier, Benoit Van Asbroeck, a partner at international firm Bird & Bird, told the commission that uncertainties in the law governing the ownership of datasets could prevent their use in training artificial intelligence algorithms. He concluded that there is a need to create a ‘non- exclusive, flexible and extensible ‘ownership’ right in datasets, combined with a right to access’.

The commission’s next evidence session will be in London on 14 February 2019.