English councils adopt predictive analytics to prevent child abuse


In September 2018, at least five local English councils had developed or implemented a predictive analytics system incorporating the data of at least 377,000 people with the intention of preventing child abuse. Advocates of these systems argue that they help councils struggling under budget cuts to better target their limited resources. The Hackney and Thurrock councils contracted the private company Xantura to develop a predictive model for them; Newham and Bristol have developed their own systems internally; and Brent is developing a system to predict vulnerability to gang exploitation. The data being considered for incorporation into these models includes school, housing, and police records. Critics warn that these systems are opaque, and risk perpetuating biases, stereotyping, and discrimination. Further budget cuts had led Northamptonshire county council to abandon its predictive analytics project.


Writer: Niamh McIntyre and David Pegg

Publication: Guardian

Publication date: 2018-09-16