The “SyRI” welfare fraud risk-scoring algorithm

The “SyRI” welfare fraud risk-scoring algorithm

litigation-01

Organisation Name

A coalition of NGOs, the Dutch trade union federation and two citizens, led by the Public Interest Litigation Project (PILP-NJCM) and Platform Bescherming Burgerrechten

Country/Jurisdiction

The Netherlands

Thematic Area

Human rights standards in the use and design of technology

Current Status

Complete, positive ruling

Description

Under the guise of detecting potential welfare and tax fraud, the Dutch government introduced a computerised system (System Risk Indication or “SyRI”) that profiled individuals based on vast pools of personal and sensitive data that had been collected from a range of public bodies.

The coalition took a case to a court in the Hague arguing that the law underpinning SyRI should be overturned because it was in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights. They believed that SyRI was used to unfairly target people as being likely to commit fraud based on their place of living, or socio-economic background.

In early 2020, the courts ruled that the SyRI system’s use was a violation of the right to privacy, marking an important step towards protecting some of society’s most marginalised groups. This was one of the first cases in Europe to challenge state use of “predictive policing” risk-scoring software, and could have implications for the widespread challenge of such technologies in policing and other areas.

The case received widespread coverage, both domestically and internationally. The coalition behind the case believe that public opinion in the Netherlands has shifted from not caring or not seeing the problem with such data-driven systems to wide recognition that using such systems to target individuals is a controversial practice.

"The courts ruled that the SyRI system’s use was a violation of the right to privacy, marking an important step towards protecting some of society’s most marginalised groups"

Strategic Goal

To prevent privacy and other human rights violations and limit the processing of data for use in risk-scoring. To generate public debate and raise awareness about how human rights issues deriving from SyRI and other predictive policing tools concern all citizens.

Organisation Name

Women’s Link Worldwide