One of the main themes of Computer Weekly’s tech and ethics coverage in 2022 was working conditions across the tech sector, from the issue of forced labor and slavery in tech supply chains, to British Amazon workers staging “wildcat” spontaneous strikes in response to paltry pay rises. and storage conditions.
Other stories in this vein included coverage of accusations that ‘soft union busting’ tactics had been used by app-based food delivery company Deliveroo to sabotage its workers’ grassroots organizing efforts. , and the ongoing lawsuit against five major tech companies for their alleged role. in the mutilations and deaths of people extracting raw materials in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Artificial intelligence (AI) also featured prominently in Computer Weekly’s tech and ethics coverage in 2022, with articles published on the tech sector’s lackluster commitment to “ethical” AI, as well as the pitfalls and the challenges of auditing AI-powered algorithms.
Police technology was another major focus of 2022, as law enforcement continues to push forward deployments of new technologies such as live facial recognition (LFR) despite serious concerns about its effectiveness, proportionality and effectiveness. .
Other stories have focused on how technology is developed and deployed, and the underlying power dynamics at play. In January, for example, Computer Weekly spoke with Forensic Architecture about how it uses technology to challenge official state and corporate narratives of human rights abuses.
Computer Weekly also covered how technology is being deployed by the UK’s border control ecosystem to deter and punish migrants crossing the Channel.
In January 2022, Computer Weekly spoke to Forensic Architecture (FA), an international, interdisciplinary research agency that uses a range of digital technologies to investigate human rights violations committed by States and companies around the world.
The conversation focused on how FA uses various digital technologies – including open source intelligence, 3D modeling, photogrammetry, virtual reality (VR), data mining, audio analytics and more – to investigate cases such as the rejection of migrants at the Greek border, and the murder of Mark Duggan by London police.
The story details how the FA uses technology to analyze and challenge official accounts of state and corporate abuse. His work has been used by a range of lawyers and human rights-focused non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and has appeared before United Nations panels.
In March, the British government was criticized for spend tens of millions of pounds on border surveillance technology to deter migrants from crossing the Channelrather than using these resources to provide safe passage.
To monitor the English Channel – a body of water just 21 miles long – the UK government uses a variety of advanced surveillance technologies, including unmanned drones and AI-powered satellites.
Lawyers, human rights groups and migrant support organizations have argued, however, that while these technologies have the ability to protect people’s lives if used differently, they are currently being deployed with the clear intent to deter migrants from crossing – or to help punish those who do. .
Since The UK Supreme Court ruled in February 2021 that Uber drivers should be classified as workers rather than self-employed, working conditions in gig economy companies have come under scrutiny.
During this period, many gig-economy companies have worked to recalibrate their relationship with workers seeking to sign agreements with larger unions.
However, in May 2022, an app-based food delivery company Deliveroo has been accused of ‘soft union bullying’ after signing a deal with GMBwhich the smaller unions condemned as a “hollow and cynical public relations move” designed to sabotage the company’s workers’ self-organizing efforts.
The Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) said the “announcement is nothing more than a hollow and cynical public relations move” aimed at reassuring investors and customers, rather than bringing significant changes to workers.
The union also said the agreement’s recognition of Deliveroo riders as “self-employed” rather than “workers” further undermines their organizing efforts, as that employment status means they have no legal right to sick pay, holiday pay or minimum wage.
In November 2021, a U.S. district court judge has dismissed a lawsuit against five major U.S. tech companies accused by the families of dead or maimed child cobalt miners of knowingly benefiting from human rights abuses in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), that Computer Weekly reported for the first time end of 2019.
In July 2022, however, Presiding Judge Carl J Nichols was found to hold significant stock and shares in four of the five companies. The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ordered that Nichols’ motion to set aside the decision be dismissed: “Neither Judge Nichols’ purchases of bonds issued by multiple respondents, nor his purchases mutual funds or exchange-traded funds have not resulted in violations”. of Section 455, the section of the relevant US code that deals with the disqualification of judges.
Responding to the ruling, Terrence Collingsworth – the lawyer representing the Congolese families – added: “We are very disappointed with the Court of Appeal’s ruling that Judge Nichols’ ownership and major new investments in these companies (at except Dell) were not a conflict of interest. sufficient to overturn its decision to dismiss the case.
Despite the ruling, the Court of Appeals is still separately reviewing Nichols’ decision”on the backgroundof the case (which the victims always planned to appeal from the dismissal), which means that the initial dismissal could still be overturned.
In July 2022, Computer Weekly spoke with human rights researchers and digital supply chain management companies about how forced labor can be identified in tech supply chainsand the limits of the current approach to the technology sector.
They said identifying forced labor and slavery is no longer a technology problem for the IT industry, with lack of government enforcement and corporate inaction being the main obstacles to a effective change.
Leo Bonanni, co-founder and CEO of supply chain transparency company Sourcemap, said: “It has been proven time and time again that even industries that have raw materials from some of the most remote parts of the planet can have real-time traceability on their goods end-to-end – it’s just a matter of more widespread adoption and, I’m not going to lie, there needs to be a culture change in many companies.
At the time of writing in August 2022, the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) had deployed live facial recognition (LFR) technology six times during the yearmarking the first round of deployments since February 2020, when use of the technology was halted due to the pandemic.
While almost The biometric information of 144,366 people was scanned during these deploymentsonly eight have been arrested, for offenses including possession of Class A drugs with intent to supply, assault of a rescue worker, failure to appear in court and an unspecified traffic offence.
A A wave of unofficial wildcat strikes swept through Amazon’s UK warehouses in Augustwith hundreds of workers across the country independently staging walkouts, sit-ins and work slowdowns to protest the e-commerce giant’s paltry wage increases.
From August 3, 2022 with Amazon’s LCY2 warehouse in Essex, when 700 logistics workers spontaneously walked out after being offered a 35p pay rise, Amazon staff ended up stage wildcat strikes at at least 10 Amazon facilities over similar company offerings.
Speaking to Computer Weekly in October, ethical AI experts said the massive expansion of AI ethics hasn’t necessarily led to better outcomesor even a reduction in the harm potential of the technology – despite a flood AI ethical principles, guidelines, frameworks and statements published by private organizations and government agencies around the world since 2018.
The emerging consensus among researchers, academics, and practitioners is that, overall, these frameworks and principles have not fully addressed the harms of AI, as they have fundamentally misunderstood the character of technology and how it affects and is both impacted by broader political and economic currents.
During the inaugural international conference on algorithmic auditingheld in Barcelona on November 8 by algorithmic audit firm Eticas, experts said organizations need to conduct end-to-end audits that take into account both the social and technical aspects of AI to fully understand the impacts of a given system.
They added, however, that a lack of understanding of how to conduct holistic audits and the limitations of the process are holding back progress.
The MPS removed more than 1,100 people from its controversial gang violence matrix in November, and pledged a “complete overhaul” of the system in the face of impending legal action by human rights group Liberty, which was presented on behalf of musician Awate Suleiman and community interest group Unjust UK in February.
Within a week of the case being due in court, the MPS instead agreed to do a complete database overhaul and removed 65% of everyone listed on the matrix.
In addition to breaching human rights and data protection legislation, Liberty has long argued that the operation of the Matrix breaches the right to privacy and family life, as the wide sharing of personal data by the MPS with a variety of third parties puts those involved on a much higher level. risk of over-policing, exclusion from school, expulsion and, in some cases, expulsion or denial of social benefits.