Wednesday 15 July 2020

UN rapporteur criticises Dutch system to identify social security fraud


UN human rights and poverty rapporteur Philip Alston has criticised the way the Netherlands is using an automated system to identify social security fraud, broadcaster NOS said on Tuesday.

Alston has said in a letter to a court in The Hague that the system goes against human rights because it appears to discriminate against people with little money and people with a minority background.

Campaigners are taking the Dutch state to court to force officials to stop experimenting with the scheme, known as SyrRi after a trial in Rotterdam was abandoned this summer.

SyRi uses an algorithm which links government organisations and draws up risk profiles based on the profiles of people already caught committing social security fraud.

It then combs the records to find people iwth a similar risk profile who are then considered to be potential fraudsters and investigates them further.


‘SyRI appears to be directly targeted at poorer groups… and the type of risk-based surveillance already affects a much broader group of individuals and is likely to affect everyone’s rights in the near future,’ Alston said.

Alston is also critical of the secrecy surrounding the way SyRi has been established and the lack of debate about its implementation in parliament.


‘Whole neighbourhoods are being made suspect and subject to special scrutiny, which is equivalent to inspectors knocking on every door in a certain area and looking at every person’s record,’ Alston said. ‘While no such scrutiny is applied to people in better off areas.’

The Dutch privacy watchdog said in May the government must be more transparent about the way algorithms are being used to take decisions affecting its citizens.

‘The government must be transparent about it, and make clear in what way your details are being processed and how these decisions are being made,’ the organisation said.

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