five - Precautionary Measures
Published online by Cambridge University Press: 15 September 2022
The three systems we have explored in this book barely scratch the surface of automation in government immigration systems. They are systems which have, for various reasons and through various means, come into public view. But automated systems are being developed and deployed in many more corners of the immigration bureaucracy. The current trajectory, both in the UK and around the world, is toward increasingly automated immigration systems.
From the transitional and experimental phase that we are currently in, it is clear that automated immigration systems can bring benefits. For example, automation has allowed millions of people to get their status under the EU Settlement Scheme quicker than would have otherwise been possible, reducing delay and associated anxiety. These systems also seem to have some success in reducing decision- making costs. However, automated systems also pose clear and real risks of failure. These failures can occur, and have already occurred, at both individual and systemic levels, with disastrous effects for individuals and their families, as well as wider society and the economy. The resultant harms must be taken seriously, and certainly more seriously than the Home Office appears to have taken them to this point.
The examples considered in this book show that there is a pattern of risky experimentation with automated systems in the Home Office. This experimentation has five key features. First, the Home Office deploys a novel automated system: an automated system that is used to perform a task previously performed by a person. This decision is made wholly within the Home Office, with little or no prior parliamentary or public debate. Second, the Home Office has several aims in deploying the system. It intends that the system will perform the specific task more efficiently, more consistently, and more accurately than its manual equivalent. But at the same time, the Home Office aims to test whether the system, or something similar, could be used in other areas of the bureaucracy. Governments often view populations on the margins of society – migrants, prisoners, and so on – as a convenient testing ground for new technologies: they are seen to have weaker claims to respect for their rights and interests and, consequently, they are generally left with weaker legal and political safeguards.
- Experiments in Automating Immigration Systems , pp. 74 - 84Publisher: Bristol University PressPrint publication year: 2022