Technological Testing Grounds

As a response to increased migration into the European Union over the last few years, many states
and international organizations involved in migration management are exploring technological experiments in various domains such as border enforcement, decision-making, and data mining. These experiments range from Big Data predictions about population movements in the Mediterranean and Aegean seas to automated decision-making in immigration applications to Artificial Intelligence (AI) lie detectors and risk-scoring at European borders. These innovations are often justified under the guise of needing new tools to ‘manage’ migration in novel ways.
However, often these technological experiments do not consider the profound human rights ramifications and real impacts on human lives.

Now, as governments move toward biosurveillance6 to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are seeing an increase in tracking projects and automated drones. If previous use of technology is any indication, refugees and people crossing borders will be disproportionately targeted and negatively affected. Proposed tools such as virus-targeting robots,8 cellphone tracking, and AI-based thermal cameras10 can all be used against people crossing borders, with far-reaching human rights impacts. In addition to violating the rights of the people subject to these technological experiments, the interventions themselves do not live up to the promises and arguments used to justify these innovations. This use of technology to manage and control migration is also shielded from scrutiny because of its emergency nature. In addition, the basic protections that exist for more
politically powerful groups that have access to mechanisms of redress and oversight are often not available to people crossing borders. The current global digital rights space also does not sufficiently engage with migration issues, at best only tokenizing the involvement from both migrants and groups working with this community.

This report offers the beginning of a systemic analysis of migration management technologies, foregrounding the experiences of people on the move who are interacting with and thinking about surveillance, biometrics, and automated decision-making during the course of their migration journeys. Our reflections highlight the need to recognise how uses of migration management technology perpetuate harms, exacerbate systemic discrimination and render certain communities as technological testing grounds.

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Author(s): Molnar, Petra

Full Title: Technological Testing Grounds: Migration Management Experiments and Reflections from the Ground Up

Publisher or Journal: EDRi; and the Refugee Law Lab

Year of Publication: 2020

Document Type: Broshure, PDF


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