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'Dirty science': Big data, algorithms & social work prediction systems

Devine, Lauren

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Abstract

Technological advances enable big data and its use in creating ‘predictive algorithms’, used to socially engineer and further political agendas. Welfare ideology in the UK operates in a climate of considerable political chaos and uncertainty, economic downturn and a rise in extremist views since the EU Referendum in 2016. In this context, there are considerable dangers in singling out vulnerable groups for State interference into private family life via algorithmic predictions. This paper identifies and explores a dual danger in the current climate: Inaccuracy and victimisation. Predictive analytic systems used in social work to predict and prevent child abuse unconsciously draw on germ theory to justify their approach. This ideological basis presents a theoretically elegant but flawed theory of child abuse eradication. In addition to the flawed science assuming child abuse is analogous to germs, the unstable political and confused ideological climate in the UK presents dangers to minority and disadvantaged groups targeted by predictive analytics. Identification via big data, ‘othering’, and consequential social engineering via forced separation of families is unregulated by ethical or legal charter. Reflection on the fate of the vulnerable in chaotic political regimes offers a glimpse of a dystopian future and a compelling argument for regulation.

Presentation Conference Type Conference Paper (unpublished)
Start Date Dec 4, 2018
Publication Date Dec 6, 2018
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
APA6 Citation Devine, L. (2018, December). 'Dirty science': Big data, algorithms & social work prediction systems. Paper presented at Sociological Association of Aotearoa, New Zealand (SAANZ) Conference 2018: The Future is in the Past
Keywords child protection, algorithmic risk prediction, elegant theories
Publisher URL https://saanz2018.org.nz/events/saanz-2018/
Related Public URLs https://saanz2018.org.nz/events/saanz-2018/
Additional Information Title of Conference or Conference Proceedings : Sociological Association of Aotearoa, New Zealand (SAANZ) Conference 2018: The Future is in the Past

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