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Monthly update on human rights & tech: November 2023

The difficulty of proving algorithmic discrimination, Parliament protests (again)against client-side scanning and more: a quick read through the most interesting developments at the intersection of human rights and technology from the Netherlands.

Netherlands Institute for Human Rights rules university's proctoring software didn't discriminate

The Dutch Racism and Technology Center (RTC) assisted bio-informatics student Robin Pocornie to launch a case with the Netherlands Institute for Human Rights over the VU University's use of proctoring software: Proctorio.

The software uses a face detection algorithm that, like almost all face detection, works better on white people than on people of color. The Institute previously found it sufficiently plausible that the software discriminates and therefore shifted the burden of proof to the university. In response, the VU submitted (supposedly) statistical proof of non-discrimination, written up by one of its own professors. At the request of Racism and Technology Center, we analyzed the report and argued why it didn't prove the software isn't discriminatory.

Unfortunately, the Netherlands Institute for Human Rights chose to not examine the discriminatory functioning of the software in general, but look at Pocornie's case in isolation. As RTC writesRead RTC's full statement on their website., the "judgement shows how difficult it is to legally prove that an algorithm discriminates, even though there is an overwhelming amount of scientific evidence that facial detection works less well for people with dark skin."

Parliament files third motion requesting Minister not to agree with client-side scanning

After a technical round-table featuring four Dutch academics, all of which said the technical measures proposed in the CSAM regulation won't be effective, Parliament issued a third (!) motion requesting the Minister of Justice and Security to vote against client-side scanning in Europe. In the mean time, we recounted the advice given by prominent Dutch expertsView or read our full contribution for the EDPS seminar. on how to protect children against sexual abuse during a round-table organized by the EDPS. We argued that the Commission's proposal seems to take an exact opposite approach to what experts say is needed.

Election agreement on digitalization receives majority support

With the general elections just around the corner, we urged political parties to agree to take action on a number of important topics related to human rights and technology, including supporting an online civic space and pushing back against the surveillance of public spaces. We're thrilled that enough political parties support the agreement to make up what most likely will be a parliamentary majority.

And finally...

As the Dutch Parliament continued to chip away at the oversight of the secret services, Schiphol Airport announced a pilot allowing certain people to travel based on biometrics alone. And of course: two more weeks until the Dutch general elections, so we're keeping a close eye on political parties' use of social media advertising - and arguing in the media why they political parties should stop using Big Tech's ad systems altogether.

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