Automating Inequality

Automating Inequality

How High-Tech Tools Profile, Police, and Punish the Poor

Virginia Eubanks

Oath of Non-Harm for an Age of Big Data I swear to fulfill, to the best of my ability, the following covenant: I will respect all people for their integrity and wisdom, understanding that they are experts in their own lives, and will gladly share with them all the benefits of my knowledge. I will use my skills and resources to create bridges for human potential, not barriers. I will create tools that remove obstacles between resources and the people who need them. I will not use my technical knowledge to compound the disadvantage created by historic patterns of racism, classism, able-ism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, transphobia, religious intolerance, and other forms of oppression. I will design with history in mind. To ignore a four-century-long pattern of punishing the poor is to be complicit in the “unintended” but terribly predictable consequences that arise when equity and good intentions are assumed as initial conditions. I will integrate systems for the needs of people, not data. I will choose system integration as a mechanism to attain human needs, not to facilitate ubiquitous surveillance. I will not collect data for data’s sake, nor keep it just because I can. When informed consent and design convenience come into conflict, informed consent will always prevail. I will design no data-based system that overturns an established legal right of the poor. I will remember that the technologies I design are not aimed at data points, probabilities, or patterns, but at human beings.

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