Automating Inequality

Automating Inequality

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

Virginia Eubanks

“Before modernization, they had someone to call up and say, ‘Listen, I received this notice. What do I need to do?’” recalled ACLU attorney Gavin Rose. “And the answer was ‘Run it down to me, fax it over right now. I’ll make sure it gets in your file and we’ll take care of this.’” Before the automation, “failure to cooperate” had been a last-ditch punishment caseworkers used against a few clients who actively refused to participate in the eligibility process. After the automation, the phrase became a chain saw that clearcut the welfare rolls, no matter the collateral damage.

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