Automating Inequality How High-Tech Tools Profile, Police, and Punish the Poor by Virginia Eubanks — Book Review


When politicians and corporate leaders talk about using technology to optimize service delivery to the needy, they summon up an efficient, value-free process. Helping homeless individuals can become like Airbnb, where shelter and housing assistance are linked with free spaces. Contribution to the poor could replace all the clunky job applications and long waits. Evaluations could recognize children in danger of mistreatment before the abuse occurs.

The book describes the life-and-death implications of the fact-based decisions on public services throughout the USA through three cases on welfare, poverty, and child welfare services. Centralize the narratives of her subjects with sensitivity while still attempting to draw on statistical information. Today, Eubanks provides a clear and captivating contribution to the debate on poverty and inequality.

The technology could be an excellent tool, and yet, as Virginia Eubanks discusses, the automated tools used to provide social services are intended with a widespread institutional bias in our society, beginning with both the idea which poverty would be the fault of homeless folks and also that the goal of our welfare systems is to ensure no one receives assistance that does not deserve it even though that means rejecting aid to the people who are doing it.

Eubanks 3 Examples Of High-Tech Application To Social Services in the US

1. Indiana's study with the automatic determination of welfare eligibility could only be described as a disaster. The main objective was to reduce the number of cars on welfare and, by design, to reduce the contact of personal counselors with welfare clients, making it more difficult for them all to become proponents.

Once in process, the software automatically triggered assistance from folks who created small mistakes in their implementations. The findings were cruel that, at moments, very sick people were denied health benefits as per research. When the governor signed contracts with IBM last 2006, it has been applied where 38% of low-income families with kids received cash assistance from TANF. But the figure had dropped to 8% in 2014.

2. Los Angeles uses a comprehensive spreadsheet to match homeless individuals with the necessary housing services. The system has become a process of cost-benefit screening. The people who were given help seem to be very needy. In other words, resources have gone to one of the worst and the better, leaving large numbers of unhelped people throughout the middle. Eubanks argues that folks in most needs of services have been required to answer some straightforward and personal questions about behavioral or mental health and their medical history, this involved a significant invasion of individual freedom or privacy, relating medical information, criminal record, and social service reports in a manner that can be obtained improperly, including that of the cops.

3. Allegheny Family Screening Tool, a tool designed to rank families in the database established for the Office of Children, Youth, and Families in Pennsylvania. In the study, their a likely risk of abuse and neglect. As Eubanks has noticed, the plan gives high-risk scores to those families premised on their use of social services and produces racial discrimination.

The results' predictive accuracy is just 76%, which implied that its evaluation as to whether children in a specific family were at risk under one of 4 trials was incorrect. The model's actual use has been reasonably harmless, in the sense that social workers were assumed to use their interpretation as to whether to pay close attention to the model's ratings. They set up a surveillance camera, which doesn't help but can be abused by different political parties. 


'Automating Inequality' is embodied in its representations of how technology is used to control, make a diagnosis, and disempower the poor. Eubanks argues that the use of technology in this way is neither investment nor for the good of the poor.

This book seems to be too horrible to read. It provides an overview of how we turn our backs on the most unfortunate in our society when they need us the most. Those who require our love, support, and protection are tossed aside and penalized for the anger of being sick, losing their homes, or suffering from mental illness.

This story describes that life is quite tricky in America if you fall through the net of poverty, bad fortune, addiction, health issues, and the filtering and tracking of technological advances in social programs make it even more difficult. I guess this book is an eye-opener, and I've learned many things, I mean some things that are always invisible or untold to ordinary people, on how politicians or other country leaders create wrong solutions to the real problem. 

For those open-minded people, this book is highly recommended, but if you are easily-angered or emotional, I suggest you shouldn't read it. All in all, lessons can always be learned, and we as an individual can choose whether to be a burden to our society or how we can help those less fortunate in our simple ways.

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