Thursday, 24 January 2019

Data analytics threatens local democracy

Here is what Xantura has to say about its Fusion platform:

"The Fusion platform is being configured to better target early help services and reduce financial pressures in several business domains, including;

Children`s Services
Adult Social Care & Health
Housing / Homelessness
Community Safety
In all these deployments, very careful consideration is given by data owners as to what data will be supplied and under what circumstances it can be shared."

However the reality might involve breaches in a family`s right to privacy given that consent for data sharing is not always sought. For example:

"Hackney Council is refusing to release details about a profiling system which flags at-risk families in the borough to social workers." 
"The Town Hall has also confirmed that people whose data is captured through its services are not told it is being used for this purpose."

"The council has paid a total of £361,400 to private data analytics company Xantura since 2015, and says it is trialling the firm’s Early Help Profiling System (EHPS)..."

"A spokesperson said the decision to keep secret what predictive indicators are used to profile families is at the request of Xantura, which argues the information is commercially sensitive."

But Alexandra Runswick, director of campaign group Unlock Democracy, said: `Commercial sensitivity should not override democratic accountability`. " 
"`Private companies like Xantura that knowingly get into the business of local democracy should expect to be open about how software is being used for targeting`." 
"`We know that human biases can be baked into profiling software design. This is a challenge that some of the largest companies in the world haven’t been able to iron out`."

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