My word – the Tories have been victimising people on the advice of an algorithm again. Haven’t we been here before?
YES, WE HAVE – former Education Secretary Gavin Williamson was pilloried two summers ago for using a computer-generated artificial intelligence program to steal high grades from state school pupils.
Now it seems people with disabilities are being targeted as benefit fraudsters by the DWP, based on an algorithm – and nothing else.
Is it the same algorithm, perhaps? The DWP isn’t telling – but may soon be forced into another potentially self-damaging revelation under threat of court action.
It doesn’t bode well for the AI that Sajid Javid is buying in for the NHS. But then, it’s a system from a company in which Javid himself owns shares (or share options – what’s the difference?).
What’s the betting that the Tory cheapskates have been using the same algorithm for all three?
The Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People (GMCDP), together with campaign group Foxglove, is taking action against the DWP after concerns were raised by the charity Privacy International, which first found references in a DWP report to its use of “cutting-edge artificial intelligence to crack down on organised criminal gangs committing large-scale benefit fraud”.
“Organised criminal gangs”?
Disabled people… living in “fear of the brown envelope” showing their case was being investigated.
Campaigners say that once flagged, those being examined can face an invasive and humiliating investigation lasting up to a year.
A “huge percentage” of the group has been affected by the system.
“We’re tired of the fear of the brown envelope and tired of being repeatedly forced by DWP officials just to justify who we are,” said Rick Burgess of the GMCDP. “It’s time for the DWP to come clean about how this algorithm works and explain why so many disabled people are flagged for investigation. Disabled people need support – not being ground down by a brutal system that assumes we are fraudulent until proven innocent.”
The Guardian‘s article highlighted a 2019 UN report into the “digital welfare state” that said algorithms were “highly likely” to repeat biases reflected in existing data and make them even worse.
It added: “Inbuilt forms of discrimination can fatally undermine the right to social protection for key groups and individuals.”
The government has until Friday to respond to the legal letter but, again according to the article, “has so far rebuffed attempts to explain how the algorithm behind the system was compiled”.
They’re trying to come up with an excuse that will stand up to examination – and I don’t think they’re going to meet that Friday deadline!
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