Thursday, March 07, 2024

Note via ORG to local councillors on PREVENT programme

At the request of the Open Rights Group I have written to my local councillor, drawing their attention to the excellent report ORG have published on the Prevent programme, Prevent and the Pre-Crime State: How unaccountable data sharing is harming a generation.

"I am writing to bring to your attention to a recent report by the Open Rights Group, revealing concerning issues related to the UK's counter-terrorism Prevent programme. Prevent operates in the pre-crime space, in which no offence has taken place, but rather people are surveilled and viewed as suspicious. It operates by extracting data and policing information that further securitises the spaces of marginalised and vulnerable communities.

I believe it is crucial for us to ensure that the implementation of such programmes by our local authority aligns with the principles of transparency, accountability, and respect for individual rights.

The report highlights widespread data sharing and retention of Prevent referrals, even when marked 'no further action.'

Thousands of Prevent referrals are made each year, and most of these referrals concern children. The majority do not meet the threshold for a Channel intervention. Despite this, the data of Prevent referees can be retained for at least six and up to 100 years, raising potential privacy and civil liberties concerns.

Key findings from the report include:

- Referrals are stored within a national Prevent database, irrespective of whether they meet the threshold for a Channel panel review.

- Data is retained for a minimum of six years, with the possibility of being kept for up to 100 years, even when a case is marked no further action. This potentially violates individuals' rights if there is no policing purpose for retention.

- It is very difficult for individuals to exercise their right to erasure and request data is removed because many will not know that they have been referred to Prevent. Even when they do know, the lack of transparency about data sharing makes it very difficult for individuals to find out all the different places that their data is being held.

-ORG is calling for local authorities, police departments and individual institutions subject to the Prevent duty to ensure maximum transparency around referrals, data processing and data sharing practices, including the systems used and in as clear detail as possible.

- Data of Prevent referees is being shared with airports, ports, and immigration services, leading to real-life harms on people' lives.

- Particularly concerning is the impact on children, who make up the majority of Prevent referrals, whose data is being shared with children's services and retained for an extended period.

Given these findings, I am reaching out to request that this report and its recommendations are considered by the local authority. Could you please request it is placed on the agenda of an appropriate meeting.

It is essential to ensure that our community's rights and privacy are respected, and that the program's implementation strikes the right balance between security measures and protecting individual freedoms.

The report also includes case studies of children experiencing harms as a result of being referred to Prevent, underlining the urgency of addressing these issues.

As a Councillor with a commitment to our community's well-being, your involvement in reviewing and potentially advocating for improvements in the local handling of Prevent would be highly valued.

I understand your time is precious, but I believe that your attention to this matter can contribute to fostering a safe and just community. If you are open to it the report can be downloaded and read at the following website address -

Thank you for your dedication to serving our community, and I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this important issue.

Yours sincerely,

Ray Corrigan"

Tuesday, March 05, 2024

Note to MP on DWP algorithm targeting disabled people for fraud investigation

At the behest of Foxglove, I have written to my MP, Layla Moran, about a discriminatory DWP algorithm being used to falsely accuse disabled people of benefit fraud.

"Dear Layla,

I’m very concerned about the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) use of an algorithm that targets disabled people for benefit fraud investigations.
Disabled people describe being flagged by the algorithm for no obvious reason and cast under suspicion of benefit fraud. They are then subjected to a lengthy, aggressive, and invasive investigation process.

I understand that UK law requires the DWP to test for and ensure safeguards are in place to address bias and discrimination in all its automated technologies. Despite that, the DWP has chosen not to test this algorithm(s) for potential impact on individuals with disabilities.
This is very concerning and there have been too many reports of innocent disabled people subjected to unfair, humiliating, distressing and invasive investigations because of this algorithm. This is particularly concerning after the Post Office Horizon scandal.

Please can you seek answers from the DWP? I would like you, as my MP, to write to the minister in charge and ask them:
· to explain in full how the system works
· what the DWP are doing to ensure it's not discriminatory.
I think if they can’t prove it’s not harming innocent people, then they should stop using it.  

Yours sincerely

Ray Corrigan"