Datafication technologies, counter-power, and resistance at the EU Borders

The Security Flows Project held a 2-day workshop that took place on the 6th and 7th of July 2021, titled Datafication technologies, counter-power and resistance at the EU Borders.

The background and the aim of the workshop can be found below, and a report of the workshop (including speaker summaries and resources shared) can be accessed on the workshop webpage.

Background & aim of workshop:

The process of transforming our everyday lives into quantifiable data is also transforming borders and migration governance. Biographical data, fingerprints, facial image and genetic data are extracted from asylum-seekers and stored in information systems to implement border controls as well as asylum and migration policies in the EU. These systems are enhanced with algorithmic optimization systems, also referred to as artificial intelligence (AI) or automated decision-making approaches, which are claimed to enable more efficient allocation of human and financial resources. Yet, little is known about how these technologies are designed, how they are acquired, and what forms of accountability and oversight are at stake.

Moreover, researchers have shown that datafication technologies can intensify discrimination. Statistical errors inherent to many algorithms used at the EU borders can strongly impact on vulnerable subjects on the move, jeopardising human rights and putting their lives at risk. The myth of efficiency also needs to be called into question when calculating costs of the maintenance of these digital infrastructures or the energy consumption and carbon footprint.

Therefore, it is imperative to gain a better understanding of datafication technologies and the use of algorithms at the EU borders, and explore counterpower strategies to challenge these developments. For example, what methods have been used to analyse these technologies and their effects? Which other possibilities of resistance against datafied borders can be envisaged? To what extent can forms of litigation and legal activism be strategically mobilised?

The aim of the workshop was to explore the EU’s and UK’s datafied border regime, the current algorithmic systems implemented in the field of border security, and the examples and strategies of counterpower and resistance in the European context. Firstly, we hope that the workshop helped produce a repository of methods for the study of datafication technologies, which can be shared with other actors. Secondly, we hope that the exchanges between researchers, investigative journalists, and civil society actors can help build better strategies of accountability and resistance.


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