New report examines widespread deployment of automated decision-making systems in policing, employment, social security and more


A new report by Algorithm Watch says that automated decision-making systems of one kind or another are in use in "almost all aspects of daily life" across the EU.

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The report, Automating Society, gives detailed overviews of the situation in 12 different countries and developments stemming from EU initiatives and projects.

According to the report, automated decision-making systems can be found in one form or another in every country examined, in all manner of areas:

  • in Finland job applicants may be profiled through assessment of their emails;
  • in Demark automated systems are deployed to try to identify children vulnerable to neglect;
  • the Italian police have automated facial recognition technology at their disposal; and
  • the French intelligence service are using mass surveillance algorithms "to identify terrorist threats".

Regimes for transparency, oversight and accountability differ greatly across the continent - and even where such regimes are in place, they may not be properly enforced.

For example, in France a legal change in 2016 introduced a mandatory requirement "for all branches of government to make their algorithms transparent."

"However, journalists who reviewed three ministries discovered that none of them had complied with the regulation," says the report.

The authors argue that such widespread deployment of automated decision-making systems:

"begs a lot of questions: Do we need new laws? Do we need new oversight institutions? Who do we fund to develop answers to the challenges ahead? Where should we invest? How do we enable citizens – patients, employees, consumers – to deal with this?"

See: Automating Society – Taking Stock of Automated Decision-Making in the EU (Algorithm Watch, link)

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