02 May 2023, by Victoria Séveno

The Dutch Data Protection Authority (AP) has called on Dutch Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra to defend the use of algorithms in assessing visa applications, NRC reports. The AP warns that the software can lead to discrimination.

Dutch Foreign Minister called on to defend use of algorithms

Talking to NRC, a spokesperson for the AP said that the agency was calling on Hoekstra to explain the use of algorithms when determining whether visa requests are approved or rejected. “Hoekstra must appear in person at the AP to defend the use of profiling software,” the newspaper writes.

This statement follows an investigation carried out by NRC and a team of investigative journalists from Lighthouse Reports into the “problematic digitisation of the issuing of Schengen visas.” According to the report – as well as former workers at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs – the system “should promote efficiency and fairness and combat illegal migration,” but the report claims it can instead lead to discrimination.

Digital software designed to speed up and simplify visa processes

In the past, visa applications were processed and issued by Dutch embassies, but technological advancements mean that, in recent years, the system has been replaced by a digital process which makes use of algorithms. 

As NRC reports, a team of 118 “decision officials” in The Hague assess whether applications for Schengen visas – which are valid for trips of up to 90 days (over a 180-day period) and are issued to those looking to visit the Netherlands for a holiday, business trip or to visit family – will be approved or denied. 

In order to make the decision, these officials use an algorithm dubbed the “Information Supported Decision Making”, which uses information about nationality, gender, age and current location to inform the official whether they should “study that application “briefly” or “intensively”.” According to NRC, applications that are filed under the former are more likely to be approved than the latter.

Thumb: leonov.o via Shutterstock.com.

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