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This publication highlights major barriers to economic justice created or magnified by data-centric technologies in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Specifically, there are three major trends related to data-centric technologies that are undermining the current and future economic stability for marginalised communities:

  1. Collapse of benefits automation
  2. Expanded surveillance
  3. Digital profiling of economic distress

To the authors' knowledge, there has been little discussion of how these trends will heighten existing economic inequalities as the nation attempts to rebuild post-pandemic. They aim to fill this gap through a conception of data justice, in which technology serves to empower people, rather than to oppress them. Further, they provide suggestions for reform so that technology works for people, rather than against them, as the nation emerges from the grip of the pandemic.

Key recommendations:

  • Institutions, rather than individuals, should bear greater responsibility to assess and limit the potentially harmful impact of algorithmic decision-making systems on racial and economic inequality before they are deployed.
  • Stakeholder participation should be encouraged and sustained throughout the technology development, procurement, and implementation lifecycle.
  • Transparency and accountability should be elevated as essential requirements of any algorithmic system that determines the distribution of public benefits or access to essential life needs, such as employment, housing, health care, or education.
  • Digital markers of economic hardship should receive added scrutiny in any algorithmic decision-making system. In particular, pandemic-related debts and evictions, and any penalties associated with unequal surveillance in education and workplace settings should be expunged from digital profiles whenever possible.
  • Technology design and access should take into account the diverse interests, needs, and experiences of users, and centre their voices in various stages of the design process.
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