News EditorSolicitors Journal

Public Law Project announces legal challenge against Home Office algorithm for detecting sham marriages

Public Law Project announces legal challenge against Home Office algorithm for detecting sham marriages

Pre-action letter claims that the tool is discriminatory and breaches data protection rules

The Public Law Project announced on 17 February that it has initiated a legal challenge against the Home Office’s use of an algorithm to detect ‘sham marriages,’ following an earlier separate ruling on the algorithm by the Information Tribunal which found evidence of “indirect discrimination” and “potential bias”.

The Home Office uses an automated ‘triage’ tool, which utilises a machine learning algorithm, to make decisions about whether couples planning to get married should be subject to a ‘sham marriage’ investigation. The tools output categorises couples according to either a ‘pass’ or ‘fail’. However, the Public Law Project claims that Home Office data show that the tool fails certain nationalities at disproportionate rates.

The Public Law Project has issued a pre-action letter to the Home Office, which sets out the legal grounds for the challenge by the national legal charity. The letter alleges that: (1) the outputs of the triage tool appear to indirectly discriminate on the basis of nationality; (2) the Home Office does not appear to have discharged its Public Sector Equality Duty to eliminate unlawful discrimination and advance equality of opportunity, which the courts have established is more demanding when using novel digital systems; (3) the secrecy around the system breaches transparency rules under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR); and (4) if manual review of ‘fail’ cases by a human does not always take place, this would go against government policy, and place the Home Secretary in breach of the Immigration Act 2014 for delegating decisions to a machine learning algorithm.

Commenting on the legal challenge, Legal Director at the Public Law Office, Ariane Adam said, “Couples who fail face invasive and unpleasant investigations and can have their permission to marry delayed without even being told that a machine was involved in the decision-making process. Home Office data show that the triage tool fails certain nationalities at disproportionate rates that are inconsistent with their contribution to migration in the UK. The information available demonstrates prima facie indirect nationality discrimination, with some nationalities, including Greeks, Bulgarians, Romanians and Albanians, disproportionately failing triage. It also suggests that there is no manual review in every ‘fail’ case. If that is in fact the case, the operation of the tool would be unlawful and would not conform to the Home Office’s own policy. The Home Office’s refusal to be transparent about the triage tool may also violate data protection obligations.”

AdvertisementAdvertisementAdvertisementAdvertisementAdvertisementAdvertisement
Latest News

Axiom Ince collapses: Police investigation begins

Tue Oct 03 2023

Barrister Carly Walters ordered to be disbarred

Tue Oct 03 2023

Fines to increase for employers without robust employment screening

Mon Oct 02 2023

IBA publishes for the first time a legal agenda identifying profession’s most pressing concerns

Mon Oct 02 2023

Black History Month: Legal profession celebrates influential Black women lawyers

Mon Oct 02 2023

The Law Society intervention ensures liberal approach to dealing with concurrent problems on legal aid

Fri Sep 29 2023

Jeanne Kelly elected President of the British Irish Chamber of Commerce

Fri Sep 29 2023

Families continue to be victims of a broken justice system

Fri Sep 29 2023

Call for compensation scheme extension to help more abuse survivors

Fri Sep 29 2023
FeaturedChris Packham legal action over Rishi Sunak's announcement
Chris Packham legal action over Rishi Sunak's announcement
Why civil mediation is the smarter choice than pressing for your day in court
Why civil mediation is the smarter choice than pressing for your day in court
SRA now managing the Solicitors Indemnity Fund
SRA now managing the Solicitors Indemnity Fund
Law Society concerned over fixed recoverable costs rollout
Law Society concerned over fixed recoverable costs rollout
SJ Interview: Hannah Ambrose
SJ Interview: Hannah Ambrose
Whose human rights are more important, yours or mine?
Whose human rights are more important, yours or mine?