New project launched: Tracing the tracers. Monitoring and analyzing ADM systems used to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

We are very pleased to announce our new project Tracing the tracers. Monitoring and analyzing automated decision-making systems used to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. With this, we aim at providing a platform through which to continuously update the public on how ADM systems are being used in Europe — and, comparatively, the rest of the world — in response to the SARS-CoV-2 global outbreak.

Building on our report ADM systems in the COVID-19 pandemic: a European perspective, published in August 2020, the platform will serve as the public interface for the continued monitoring, mapping, and explanation of the use of ADM-based applications to help containing and fighting the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, in the attempt of simultaneously protecting the health of millions of individuals and safely reopening European economies.

Scrutinized systems will include:

  • contact tracing and exposure notification apps;
  • wearables, biometric and other device and technologies to enforce social distancing measures;
  • vaccine passports;
  • AI-based applications for symptoms checking, predicting the risk of infection or tracking vaccine safety;
  • intelligent analysis of aggregate mobility data;
  • QR codes to complement contact tracing and/or enforce public health measures;
  • ADM-based surveillance solutions in specific contexts (e.g.: workplaces, education).

Content produced on the platform will vary from news items to news analyses and even more in-depth reporting, focusing on specific topics, trends and developments, while always carefully highlighting the many ways in which automation interplays with human decisions and the public health policies devised to contain the pandemic.

Our aim is to provide actionable information about the use of ADM-based systems in the context of COVID-19, as a basis for empowering stakeholders to better participate in democratic processes. As an evidence-based organization, we firmly believe that this is all the more important now that ADM systems are deployed within choices that concern the health of millions of individuals in Europe alone.

In order to do so with accuracy, timeliness and rigor, content on the platform will be produced together with the Algorithmic Accountability Reporting and Research Network we already built within the ‘Automating Society’ project, consisting of some outstanding 30 researchers and journalists located in 16 countries all over Europe, including university professors, investigative journalists and civil society leaders.

Given the scope of our endeavor, working together with other civil society organizations involved in understanding tech responses to COVID-19 is also of essence. The project therefore aims at strengthening civil society itself, both by providing our findings to partners from the European civil society, and by informing joint and powerful advocacy work.

Discussions and workshops will also be held throughout the duration of the project: only through continuous, informed and inclusive democratic debate we can maximize our chances of positively impacting public discourse and policy, minimizing the risks of automation while at the same time making the most of its promise.

The project is managed by Fabio Chiusi and funded by the European AI Fund.