Poverty

11 May 2020

The combination of poverty, crowded living conditions, and lack of access to running water place Europe's 10 million Roma at particular risk from the coronavirus, leading in some countries to their scapegoating as potential hotspots for illness, according to an Open Society Foundations report. In Sofia people are only allowed to leave Roma neighbourhoods through police checkpoints if they can produce a work contract or urgent reason. In Slovakia, five Roma settlements were put under quarantine in early April; four have since had the quarantine lifted. Many Roma people have lost their jobs and may not be eligible for state compensation schemes, and many families do not have either broadband connections or sufficient devices to support distance learning for their children.

Writer: Shaun Walker
Publication: Guardian
 

15 Apr 2020
The Venezuelan government has ramped up quarantine enforcement in the Catia barrio in Caracas by issuing permits that allow only one family member out at a time and only before noon, and setting up 40 checkpoints. Many residents had flouted regulations in the barrio, home to 400,000 of Venezuela's
In February 2019, the World Food Programme, a United Nations aid agency, announced a five-year, $45 million partnership with the data analytics company Palantir. WFP, the world's largest humanitarian organisation focusing on hunger and food security, hoped that Palantir, better known for partnering
20 Oct 2015
For low-income Americans to receive public benefits they are legally entitled to, they must submit to widespread monitoring of their intimate and personal affairs. This monitoring includes sharing a trove of personal documents and information, unannounced home visits from caseworkers, mandatory face
14 Dec 2018
The New York City public benefits system has been criticized for its punitive design, how it too often disciplines, rather than helps, people who are legally entitled to benefits. According to Mariana Chilton, the public benefits system is designed to control, surveil, and penalize low-income people
02 Dec 2016
Private companies are not the only actors pushing for increased control of benefit claimants. The World Bank has also instrumental in funding programmes aiming at assisting government in administrating welfare programmes which has led to futher surveillance of benefits claimants, in December 2016
21 Jul 2012
The State is not always the only actor involved in the surveillance of benefits claimants. Often those practices are encouraged, facilitated or conducted by private companies. South Africa for instance mandated MasterCard to help distribute benefits through biometric debit cards. https://www
02 Nov 2013
In Israel, the National Insurance Institutes sends out anti-fraud officers to spy on benefits claimants. Among the cases reported, a woman had her benefits allowances halved after a man entered her house pretending to be interested in buying the flat next door. The man, who was in fact a NII
01 Feb 2011
The DWP relies on anti-fraud officers who go and spy on benefit claimants to verify their claims. For instance, claimants who declare that they are a lone parent may end up with an officer trying to verify there is no one else living in the house. And once they are confident that the alleged lone
31 May 2018
The surveillance of benefits claimants does not happen only online. In the UK, the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) is known to be using CCTV footage of public buildings but also gyms and supermarkets to prove some benefits claimants are not actually disabled. Gym memberships are also being
04 Dec 2018
In Israel, the National Insurance Institute – in charge of granting benefits – eventually dropped a tender that had caused outrage in the country after being uncovered by Haaretz and Channel 13. The tender revealed the NII was trying to collect online data about benefits claimants – including from
08 Apr 2019
The rise of social media has also been a game changer in the tracking of benefits claimants. In the UK in 2019, a woman was jailed after she was jailed for five months after pictures of her partying in Ibiza emerged on social media. She had previously sued the NHS for £2.5 million, after surviving a
23 Nov 2009
The rise of social media has also been a game changer in the tracking of benefits claimants. Back in 2009, the case of Nathalie Blanchard a woman in Quebec who had lost her disability insurance benefits for depression because she looked “too happy” on her Facebook pictures had made the news. https:/
01 Mar 2019
In London, four boroughs have been trialling the London Counter Fraud Hub. The hub is designed to process huge quantities of data from millions of household to detect certain types of fraud involving the single person council tax discount (in London, a person living alone gets a reduced rate on
17 Feb 2019
The National Board of Scholarships and School Aid (Junaeb) in Chile was also heavily criticised for its use of facial recognition programmes to deliver meals at thirty schools in three cities across the country. After the Supreme Court requested in 2017 that the system must not be applied without
07 Sep 2015
In Mexico, people registered as beneficiaries of any programmes led by the Ministry of Social Development could obtain a TV set, as part of the transition from analogue to digital TV organised by the Ministry of Communications and Transportation. Yet, the Ministry of Communications and
02 May 2017
In Bangladesh, as part of the USAID and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation supported programme “a2i” (Access to Information), the government has built a system to allow citizens to receive their welfare payment on a pre-paid debit card given to them at the Bangladesh Post Office after having been
16 Apr 2019
In Ireland benefits claimants are expected to register for a Public Services Card (PSC) in order to access benefits. PSC users are expected to have their photographs taken in department offices, which is then digitally captured along with their signature. While this card was originally created to
01 Nov 2017
Cases of people being denied healthcare as they fail to provide an Aadhaar number have already started emerging. A 28-year old domestic worker, for instance, had to be hospitalised for a blood transfusion after she had an abortion with an unqualified local physician. She had been denied an abortion
01 May 2018
In India, one of the reasons the Aadhaar ID system has been increasingly widely used is that it is mandatory for much India’s benefits system. Government subsidies are now processed through under the Direct Benefit Transfer scheme, which requires citizens to have a bank account and to insure that
10 Jan 2018
In this review of Virginia Eubanks's book Automating Inequality, the author of the review looks at the three main case studies Eubanks explores in her book: the attempt to automate and privatise the welfare system elligibility management in the state of Indiana in 2006, the use of a coordinated
11 Dec 2013
In this 2013 piece, Virginia Eubanks discuss the move in Indiana from relying on caseworkers to automating the distribution of benefits and how through the use of performance metrics to speed up the decision-making process, the system ended up being incentivising the non-distribution of benefits
24 Jul 2018
In this interview (podcast and transcript) Virginia Eubanks discuss three case studies from her book Automating Inequality to illustrate how technology and data collection negatively impact people in vulnerable situation. The (failed) attempt to automate and privatise the welfare system elligibility
04 Apr 2018
In the United States, monitoring efforts to combat public benefits fraud are often part of a broader approach that focuses on stigmatizing people receiving benefits and reducing their number, rather than ensuring that the maximum number of people who are eligible receive benefits. However, fraud
21 Dec 2017
In the United States, while everyone is surveilled not every is equal when it comes to surveillance. Factors including poverty, race, religion, ethnicity, and immigration status will affect how much you end up being surveilled. This reality has a punitive effect on poor people and their families and
22 Jan 2019
The vast majority of public benefits programs in the United States—Supplemental Security Income, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Medicaid, Children’s Health Insurance Program, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs, the Earned Income Tax Credit, and Housing Assistance—do not take the
The first conditional cash transfer program in a higher-income country was trialled in the United States by Mayor Bloomberg in New York City from April 2007 to August 2010. Known as Opportunity NYC-Family Rewards, the privately funded pilot program transferred cash rewards to families who were able
15 Jan 2014
Virginia Eubanks explains what we can draw from understanding the experience of surveillance of marginalised groups: it is a civil rights issue, technologies carry the bias of those who design them, people are resisting and why we need to move away from the privacy rights discourse. https://prospect
06 Feb 2018
In this interview with Virginia Eubanks, the author highlights how electronic benefit transfer cards have become tracking devices and how data exploitation used to restrict access to welfare. https://www.vox.com/2018/2/6/16874782/welfare-big-data-technology-poverty Author: Sean Illing Publication
21 Mar 2014
This article is an overview of some of the research documenting how people in vulnerable positions are the ones most affected by government surveillance. https://stateofopportunity.michiganradio.org/post/technology-opportunity-researcher-says-surveillance-separate-and-unequal Author: Kimberly
08 May 2018
Although the US rejected a "National Data Center" approach in 1966, eventually instead passing the 1974 Privacy Act, in 2018 the House of Representatives proposed a national database of all 40 million recipients of benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as
31 May 2018
Rising suspicion of benefits claimants in the UK led by 2018 to the Department of Work and Pensions' adoption of numerous surveillance tactics, including using social media postings, gym memberships, airport footage, and surveillance video from public buildings including supermarkets, to build cases
30 Mar 2018
Users downloading their Facebook histories have been startled to find that the company has been collecting call and SMS data. The company has responded by saying users are in control of what's uploaded to Facebook. However, the company also says it's a widely used practice when users first sign in
In 2012, Durham Constabulary, in partnership with computer science academics at Cambridge University, began developing the Harm Assessment Risk Tool (HART), an artificial intelligence system designed to predict whether suspects are at low, moderate, or high risk of committing further crimes in the
03 Sep 2016
In May 2014 the Polish Ministry of Labor and Social Policy (MLSP) introduced a scoring system to distribute unemployment assistance. Citizens are divided into three categories by their “readiness” to work, the place they live, disabilities and other data. Assignment to a given category determines
18 Aug 2016
In a presentation given at the Knowledge Discovery and Data Mining conference in 2016, researchers discussed a method of using the data generated by smart card public transport tickets to catch pickpockets. In a study of 6 million passenger movements in Beijing, the researchers used a classifier to
24 Jan 2014
In 2014, DataKind sent two volunteers to work with GiveDirectly, an organisation that makes cash donations to poor households in Kenya and Uganda. In order to better identify villages with households that are in need, the volunteers developed an algorithm that classified village roofs in satellite
30 Nov 2015
A 2015 study carried out in Rwanda and published in the journal Science used mobile phone records to study the distribution of wealth and poverty in an attempt to fill in the gap left by the difficulty of collecting accurate statistics. A rought idea of geographic location was derived from
01 Sep 2016
Automated systems such as the personality test developed by Massachusetts-based workforce management company Kronos are increasingly used by large companies to screen job applicants. To avoid falling foul of regulations prohibiting discrimination against those with mental illness, often the
30 Nov 2015
In 2015, a small number of Silicon Valley start-ups began experimenting with assessing prospective borrowers in developing countries such as Kenya by inspecting their smartphones. Doing so, they claimed, enabled them to charge less in interest than more traditional microlenders, since many of their
08 Apr 2016
In September 2016, the US Federal Trade Commission hosted a workshop to study the impact of big data analysis on poor people, whose efforts to escape poverty may be hindered by the extensive amounts of data being gathered about them. Among those who intensively surveil low-income communities are
28 Jul 2016
In 2016, when Australia was planning to introduce a new welfare system based on data collection, experts from New Zealand, where a similar system was set up in 2012, warned that experience showed that the most vulnerable people were checking out of any relationship with the state. They warned, for
07 May 2015
In 2014, India's newly elected prime minister, Narendra Modi, allocated INR70.6 billion (upwards of £750 million) to a plan called "100 Smart Cities". Although a year later the funding dropped to INR1.4 billion, smart city-themed conference continued to take place in Delhi and Mumbai, and urban
15 Apr 2016
Between 2010 and 2016, access control spyware implementing a remote "kill switch" was installed increasingly often in rent-to-buy laptops and cars financed by subprime loans. In a 2012 case the Federal Trade Commission settled with seven computer rental companies over their use of DesignerWare's
03 Apr 2018
In 2016, researchers discovered that the personalisation built into online advertising platforms such as Facebook is making it easy to invisibly bypass anti-discrimination laws regarding housing and employment. Under the US Fair Housing Act, it would be illegal for ads to explicitly state a
A 2017 research report found that the most vulnerable smartphone users are the ones whose devices are most open to fraud and harassment. Cheaper, low-end devices are less secure to begin with, and they are also less often replaced than their more expensive counterparts made by. Apple and Google. At