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 contain and fight the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, in the attempt to simultaneously protect the health of millions of individuals and safely reopen European economies.
The systems to be scrutinized will include:
- contact tracing and exposure notification apps;
- wearables, including biometric and other devices and technologies to enforce social distancing measures;
- vaccine passports;
- AI-based applications for symptom 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 published on the platform will include news items, analyses, and 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.
We aim 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, given that the deployment of ADM systems, and the decisions they make, concern the health and choices 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 have already built within the ‘Automating Society’ project. This network consists of thirty outstanding researchers, university professors, investigative journalists, and civil society leaders located in sixteen different European countries.
Given the scope of our endeavor, it is vital that we work together with other civil society organizations involved in understanding tech responses to COVID-19. Therefore, the project aims to strengthen civil society itself by providing our findings to partners from European civil society and by informing powerful joint advocacy work.
We will also hold discussions and workshops for the duration of the project. We believe that only through continuous, informed, and inclusive democratic debate can we 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.
Consistent with AlgorithmWatch’s broader vision, the project will investigate automated decision-making systems - which we view as socio-technical systems, rather than technologies per se. This means that, even though a great deal of attention will be dedicated to investigating the technology behind each system, issues such as social justice, fairness, equity, privacy, and human rights will be at the forefront of the project’s analyses.
Consequently, the social and individual impact of ADM systems deployed throughout the pandemic will be the main criterion for inclusion in the database and analyses of the Tracing the Tracers platform.
Of course, no such project can claim to be exhaustive, given the plethora of systems trialed and/or deployed in the context of COVID-19. And, as the Automating Society 2020 report clearly illustrated, transparency is the exception rather than the norm when it comes to the social uses of algorithmic systems.
We will rely on a series of sources to inform our content:
- national and local news media coverage
- academic papers
- civil society reports
- original reporting and interviews
- freedom of information requests
More specifically, our database will include:
- news items providing constantly updated information on developments and deployments of ADM systems in Europe
- thematic analyses, providing in-depth and/or original information on some of the most impactful applications of ADM produced in response to the pandemic (e.g. digital contact tracing apps and digital COVID certificates)
- posts detailing developments in individual countries outside of Europe, with a specific focus on those that we think are fundamental to complement and better inform our analyses of the European context of ADM
- useful links made up of material produced by other organizations and institutions that we deem fundamental in widening the reader’s understanding of ADM systems in COVID-19 responses
Results will be searchable by country, topic, tags, keywords, and more.
A final report will also summarize the main results of our research at the end of the project in December 2021.
Flag an ADM system through the “Contribute” function
AlgorithmWatch will try and include in the Tracing the Tracers platform as many ADM systems that have a significant societal and/or individual impact in Europe as possible.
And yet, it would be unrealistic for us to claim that we’ll be able to spot every single usage. Even the most committed research network cannot rule out the possibility of missing certain local, and yet important, deployments of ADM system in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This is why we ask for the help of our readers. Through our “Contribute” section, we invite you to flag the existence of any ADM systems not yet included in our database and that we might have overlooked.
If you are aware of the existence of an ADM system deployed in the context of the pandemic and can provide proof of it, please tell us by clicking on the “Contribute” button on the project’s homepage and filling out our form. We will evaluate any systems you flag and contact you if we need further details.
The project is funded by the EU AI Fund.