Huge databases are being used to predict which children are at risk of harm or involvement in crime and which families are vulnerable, with little evidence the predictions are any better than the views of an experienced social worker, while benefits applicants are profiled and risk scored by computer systems by the Department for Work and Pensions and their local council.
Private companies market these algorithms as cost-saving measures. Public bodies claim they use them to target resources and cut fraud - but these tools, operating in the shadows, can cast suspicion on innocent people. Claims of commercial confidentiality are used to shelter these systems from public accountability so little is known about how they work, their biases or how much the computers lead human decision making.
Big Brother Watch is changing that. A long-term investigation will uncover much more about how the British welfare system is being controlled by automation and algorithms.
We have already exposed the system being used to predict economic and social vulnerability during the pandemic but there is much more to do.
There are a number of key areas our investigation will cover, including:
So many of these areas are shrouded in secrecy and we cannot shine a light on all of them alone. We need YOUR help to use one of the most powerful tools to find out how data is being used, a Subject Access Request
Data protection rules entitle you to ask any public body how they use your information and why - your Subject Access Request lets you find what data your council holds on you and how it is used.
If you get a response and decide to share it confidentially with Big Brother Watch for our research we promise to do everything we can to explain how your data is being processed in return.
Enter your local authority into the box below and you’ll be given a template Subject Access Request, based on what we think is going on at your council, and send it in.
You may be asked to provide a copy of some ID to make sure you’re getting the right data, this is completely normal. You are always entitled to see how your info is used under the Data Protection Act.
Let us know if you have sent off a Subject Access Request, or if you have any questions, by emailing us at email@example.com
If you share your response with us, we will treat it confidentially and help you understand what it means. Get in touch with our teams at firstname.lastname@example.org