The Netherlands is using a secret and potentially illegal algorithm to score visa applicants, according to an investigation by the NRC and journalism collective Lighthouse Reports.
And despite the foreign affairs ministry’s own privacy chief recommending the system be dropped, it is still in use, the NRC said on Monday.
The foreign affairs ministry has been using the profiling system to calculate the risk score of short-stay visa applicants applying to enter the Netherlands and Schengen area since 2015.
According to Lighthouse and the NRC the system has profiled millions of visa applicants based nationality, gender and age and those who are deemed ‘high risk’ are automatically moved to an ‘intensive track’ which can mean long delays and refusal.
‘Family members of Dutch citizens with a migration background are prevented in all kinds of ways by the foreign affairs ministry from getting a visa for short stays,’ MP Kati Piri told the publications.
Regardless of the ministry claims about the system’s efficiency ‘it is incredibly difficult to get a visa from countries like Morocco and Suriname,’ Piri said.
The Netherlands has been called out several times for using biased algorithms and earlier this year, data protection watchdog Autoriteit Persoonsgegevens (AP) said it had started monitoring the use of algorithms as part of a government programme to prevent discrimination and exclusion.
The child benefit scandal which erupted in 2020 is a case in point. Between 2004 and 2019, thousands of parents were unjustly labelled fraudsters. Being a dual national was one of the indicators for a potential fraud risk, and the data of dual nationals was processed in an unlawful and discriminatory way.
Another example is the government fraud detection programme SyRI which was found to break human rights following a court case.
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