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Blackbox welfare fraud detection system breaches human rights, Dutch court rules

An algorithmic threat orchestrating arrangement deployed by the Dutch state to try to predict the likelihood that social security claimants will commit benefits or tax fraud is a breach of human rights law, a court in the Netherlands has ruled.

The Dutch government’s System Risk Indication( SyRI) legislation use a non-disclosed algorithmic gamble representation to profile citizens and has been alone were aimed at places with mostly low-income and minority residents. Human claims activists have dubbed it a” health surveillance state .”

A number of civil society organizations in the Netherlands and two citizens instigated the legal action against SyRI — seeking to block its operation. The tribunal be here today required an immediate halting to the use of the system.

The ruling is being heralded as a landmark judgement by human rights campaigners, with special courts locating its argue on European human rights law — precisely the right to a private life that’s set out by Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights( ECHR) — rather than a dedicated clause in the EU’s data protection structure( GDPR) which relates to automated processing.

GDPR’s Article 22 includes the right for individuals not to be subject to alone automated individual decision-making where they can produce substantial legal effects. But there can be some fuzziness around whether this applies if there’s a human somewhere in the loop, such as to review a decision on objection.

In this instance the court has avoided such questions by see SyRI instantly encroaches with titles set out in the ECHR.

Specifically, the court found that the SyRI legislation flunks a balancing measure in Article 8 of the ECHR which requires that any social interest to be weighed against the violation of individuals’ private life, with a fair and reasonable balance being expected. The automated risk assessment system flunked this experiment in the court’s view.

Legal professionals indicate the decision regulates some clear limits on how the public sector in the UK can make use of AI implements — with the court objecting in particular to the lack of transparency about how the algorithmic risk valuing system functioned.

In a press release about the judgement( carried to English employing Google Translate ), the court writes that the use of SyRI is “insufficiently clear and controllable”. While, per Human Rights Watch, the Dutch authority refused during the hearing to disclose” meaningful report” about how SyRI exploits personal data to draw inferences about possible fraud.

The court clearly took a dim view of the state trying to circumvent scrutiny of human rights risk by drawn attention to an algorithmic “blackbox” and shrugging.

The Court’s interpretation doesn’t imply there should be full disclosure, but it clearly expects much more robust information on the way( objective criteria) that the simulate and ratings were developed and the direction in which specific risks for individuals were addressed.

— Joris van Hoboken (@ jorisvanhoboken) February 6, 2020

The UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston — who intervened in the case by providing the court with a human rights analysis — welcomed the judgement, described him as” a clear victory for all those who are justifiably concerned about the serious threats digital welfare systems pose for international human rights .”

“This decision creates a strong law instance for other courts to follow. This is one of the first times a court anywhere has stopped the use of digital technologies and inexhaustible digital knowledge by welfare authorities on human rights soils ,” he contributed in a press statement.

Back in 2018, Alston warned that the UK government’s rush to apply digital technologies and data tools to socially re-engineer the delivery of public services at magnitude gambled having an immense impact on the human rights of the most vulnerable.

So the decision by the Dutch court could have some near-term consequences for UK policy in this area.

The judgement does not shut the door on the use by states of automated profiling organizations only, but it does make it clear that human rights law in Europe must be central to the design and implementation of rights risking tools.

It also comes at a key duration when EU policymakers are working on a framework to regulate artificial intelligence — with the Commission pledging to devise rules that ensure AI technologies are applied ethically and in a human-centric way.

It remains to be seen whether the Commission will push for pan-EU limits on specific public area uses of AI( such as for social security assessments ). A recent leaked enlist of a white paper on AI regulation suggests it’s leaning towards risk assessments and a patchwork of risk-based governs.

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