Artificial intelligence: EU invests in ‘high-risk’ technologies to control migration flows

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In the name of controlling its borders, the European Union is investing in artificial intelligence. The latest example to date: Itflows, software for forecasting migratory movements. Investigation site Disclose shows internal warnings about potential abuse in its app. Experts on the subject interviewed by Infomigrants are concerned about the growing importance given to these “high-risk” technologies for human rights.

Five million euros of European public money was used to develop the Itflows project, an artificial intelligence (AI) tool designed to predict migratory movements. Scheduled for August 2023, this tool, developed by private company Terracom and research institutes, is still in the testing phase.

But the project is considered “alarming” by several experts, including Petra Molnar, deputy director of the Refugee Law Laboratory at York University, Canada, in an interview with InfoMigrants. The lawyer and researcher, a member of the Migration Tech Observatory, which closely monitors these kinds of projects, believes Itflows “normalizes the use of high-risk technologies, such as predictive analytics software, to predict the movements of people crossing borders.”

In fact, while the tool is still in testing, the survey posted by Disclose already shows internal warnings about its potential abuse. “There is a significant risk that the information will fall into the hands of states or governments, which will use it to install new barbed wires along borders,” said Alexander Kjaerum, an analyst at the Danish Refugee Council and a member of the supervisory board. Disclose journalists.
“Stigmatize, discriminate, oppress migrants”
Members of the Itflows ethics committee regret the lack of attention to their warnings. In internal documents obtained by investigative reporters, this committee believes that information provided by Itflows could be used, if used “inappropriately”, to “stigmatize, discriminate, harass or intimidate people, in particular those in vulnerable situations such as migrants, refugees and asylum seekers.”
In one of these reports, the ethics committee details these abuses. Among other things: “Member States can use the data provided to create ghettos for migrants.” The committee also points to “the risk of physical identification of migrants” as well as “discrimination based on race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, disability or age.”
The use of artificial intelligence “exposes migrants to violations of their rights, including the right to privacy, the right not to be discriminated against and the right to seek asylum,” sums up Margarida Silva, researcher at the Center for Research on Multinational Enterprises (SOMO). ) contacted by the Infomigrants. “Increasingly investing in surveillance and artificial intelligence technologies, border agencies and politicians are also choosing not to invest these resources in rescue operations and the creation of safe passages,” she recalls.

Itflows testifies to the “growing appetite of the European Union (EU) for the use of unregulated and risky technologies” to protect human rights, Petra Molnar laments. These technologies also include autonomous surveillance drones or cellular data extraction software.