CJRC Privacy Expert Discusses the ‘RoboDebt Data Matching Scandal’

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CJRC researcher and privacy expert Dr Monique Mann from the School of Justice, Faculty of Law, recently spoke to New Matilda about the RoboDebt data matching scandal.

Dr Mann compares the robo-debt fiasco to the movie I, Daniel Blake. “It’s a Kafka-esque nightmare,” she told New Matilda in an interview. “There are real questions about the reliability of the data and the program used to match data between Centrelink and the Australian Taxation Office.”

“There are also serious concerns with removal of human oversight of computer-based systems and automated decision-making leading to errors, further compounded by limited avenues for review and appeal.”

Mann, an academic who is also a board member of the non-profit Privacy Foundation, worries about the transparency of such algorithms. “Academics call this ‘black box decision making’: we don’t know how the algorithm works, we don’t how these decisions are being made, this is all very opaque and it is very problematic.”

Mann calls it a “privacy omnishambles,” mentioning the disastrous 2016 Census and the passage of the notorious metadata retention laws in 2015. She also points out that the government’s Digital Transformation Agency is currently working to develop what it calls a ‘trusted digital identity framework’, which it touts as making “the process of proving who you are to government while online simple, safe and secure.”

Mann says the DTA is proposing that facial biometrics technologies are being considered for use in the trusted digital identitifer. “Privacy advocates are incredibly concerned about this.”

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