Danish central agency expands algorithmic administration


By 2018, the Danish municipality of Gladsaxe, in Copenhagen, began identifying children at risk of abuse so that flagged families could be targeted for early intervention by applying a set of specially designed algorithms to information already gathered by the centralised Udbetaling Danmark government agency, including health records and employment information, all linked to the personal identification number issued to each Dane at birth. The system raised concerns about mission creep; both the power and access to data of Udbetaling Danmark have grown steadily since its creation. A recent proposal suggested the agency should be giving access to Danish households' electricity use data in order to identify people who registered a false address in order to qualify for benefits. The Gladsaxe proposal sparked a public blacklash. Critics complain that the shift to algorithmic administration weakens government accountability, allows governments to consolidate their power, leads inevitably to increasingly draconian measures to police individual behaviour, and poses a threat to liberal democracy.


Writer: Jacob Mchangama and Hin-Yan Liu

Publication: Foreign Policy

Publication date: 2018-12-25