European AI Fund – Summary of Tech & Covid reporting

As the pandemic unfolded, it became evident that the use of technology in response to Covid would have implications for generations to come. The European AI Fund wanted to ensure that, at this moment of profound transformation, civil society could advocate for the public interest. Beginning in February 2021, the European AI Fund funded six organisations to monitor, analyse and challenge Europe’s tech response to the pandemic.

The Ada Lovelace Institute researched the ethical, societal and human rights arguments around vaccination certificates and immunity passports and proposed a six point roadmap for “a vaccine passport system that delivers societal benefit”. They advocated for a pause on the roll-out of initiatives until an evidence based, publicly debated, ethical and sustainable approach to vaccine certification could be established that would not further exacerbate the disproportionate impact of the crisis on the most vulnerable.

AlgorithmWatch’s Tracing the Tracers project created a digital platform to continuously monitor and analyse automated decision-making (ADM) systems used in response to the Covid-19 pandemic in Europe (and beyond). They highlighted the plethora of devices, tools and solutions tested and adopted despite an absence of evidence of their effectiveness, and often with insufficient democratic debate.

The Balkan Investigate Reporting Network (BIRN) supported 10 reporters through its Digital Rights Programme for Journalists, established a Covid-19 Crisis Tech Response Live feed to highlight digital abuses and published a comprehensive report on digital rights in the region, with a particular focus on the rise of far right and hate speech online and content removal.

Tilburg University’s Global Data Justice Project explored technology-led and market-driven ‘Sector Transgressions’, analysing how companies from the defence, intelligence and security sectors have pivoted to find new applications in areas such as health and education.

The Civil Liberties Union for Europe (Liberties) conducted comprehensive research on how different European contact tracing apps work, what kind of data they collect and process, how efficient these apps are, how transparently they operate, and how the apps can worsen existing social problems.

Superrr Lab examined the conceptualization, development and deployment of digital public infrastructure in the fight against Covid, paying special attention to the role of digital civil society. They published a Covid Infrastructure Playbook to help civil society organisations and governments navigate the ongoing digital transformation, aware of the risks and opportunities and with public interest in mind.

This report provides insights from these organistions, identifies common themes, and formulates recommendations.

You can read the report here.

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