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‘Predictive’ Software that Labels Expectant Parents Unfit

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Computer binary codeby Richard Wexler, National Coalition for Child Protection Reform

In the dystopian science fiction movie Minority Report, people are arrested and jailed based on the predictions of three psychics in a bathtub that at some point in the future they will commit a crime. The film was meant to be a cautionary tale.

But in the field of child welfare, there are many who seem to be responding to Minority Report the way Rick Santorum would respond if he read The Handmaid’s Tale — seeing it as a blueprint instead of a warning.

No, they are not proposing to rely on psychics in a bathtub.  Instead they’re proposing something even less reliable: using “predictive analytics” to decide when to tear apart a family and consign the children to the chaos of foster care.  Giant software firms claim they can use demographic information and other “data points” to create algorithms that predict who will commit a crime, or who will neglect their children.

It’s the same approach used so brilliantly by organizations such as FiveThirtyEight and The New York Times to predict the outcome of the 2016 Presidential Election.

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© 2017 National Coalition for Child Protection Reform

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