Legal challenge launched against 'discriminatory' sham marriage algorithm

Occurred: February 2023

A legal challenge has accused an algorithm used by the UK Home Office to identify potential sham marriages of discriminating against people from certain countries.

The sham marriage triage tool, which is applied to marriage applications involving someone who is not a British or Irish citizen, and lacks sufficient settled status or a valid visa, identifies couples suspected of getting married just to get round immigration controls, and refers them for investigation by officials. 

According to legal charity the Public Law Project (PLP), the tool could discriminate against people from certain countries. The Home Office denied the algorithm uses nationality as a factor in its response to freedom of information requests. 

The PLP had earlier obtained an internal Home Office equaity impact assessment (pdf) that concluded that the algorithm had disproportionately singled out people from Albania, Greece, Romania and Bulgaria, indicating bias and possible discrimination against nationals from these countries.

Operator: UK Home Office
Developer: Home Office DACC
Country: UK
Sector: Govt - immigration
Purpose: Detect sham marriages
Technology: Machine learning
Issue: Bias/discrimination - nationality; Fairness
Transparency: Governance

Legal, regulatory 👩🏼‍⚖️