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Institute of Biomedical Ethics and History of Medicine (IBME)

New Publication: "Black box algorithms in mental health apps: An ethical reflection" by Tania Manríquez Roa & Nikola Biller-Andorno in Bioethics

The article "Black box algorithms in mental health apps: An ethical reflection" has been published in the journal Bioethics. In this paper, Tania Manríquez Roa and Nikola Biller-Andorno reflect on mental health apps based on black box algorithms, and propose how to use their outcomes in mental healthcare, self-care practices, and research. They argue that there is a relevant distinction between the functions performed by algorithms in mental health apps, and focus on the functions of analysis and advice generation. When performing analytic functions, black box algorithms can be better than other algorithms at providing information to identify early signs of relapse, support diagnostic processes, and improve research. However, when carrying out the function of providing mental health advice directly to users, black box algorithms have the potential to deliver unforeseen advice that may be harmful. To avoid the potential unwanted consequences of mental health apps, it is relevant to know what functions they perform, whether they have undergone reliability and transparency checks, and critically, if they provide advice generated by black box algorithms.

Manríquez Roa, T., & Biller-Andorno, N. (2023). Black box algorithms in mental health apps: An ethical reflection. Bioethics, 1–8.