Our impact and success

Foxglove fights to make technology fair for everyone. We want a future where abuses by Big Tech corporations and powerful states are stopped and where the benefits of tech are shared fairly.

Examples of our recent impact and success include:

SUCCESS: Stopping the UK Home Office’s racist visa algorithm

In 2020, working with the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, we launched a legal challenge of the Home Office for using a “visa streaming” algorithm which was being used to process every visa application to the UK.

We were concerned that the system was racist, discriminatory and contained “feedback loop” bias problems where past bias and discrimination, fed into a computer program, reinforced further persecution, based on the previous data. 

Faced with our legal case, the Home Office caved in and agreed to stop using the algorithm. 

This was great news, because it got rid of an algorithm that entrenched racism and bias into the visa system. It was also the first successful judicial review of a UK government algorithmic decision-making system.

ONGOING: Supporting content moderators around the world to unionise and fight for their rights

Foxglove’s work to support social media content moderators around the world as they fight for better pay and conditions is ongoing – but we’ve already been part of some hugely significant milestones.

Our work to support content moderators in Kenya began when, together with lawyer Mercy Mutemi, we supported Daniel Motaung to take legal action after he was unfairly sacked from his job at Facebook’s East African content moderation hub, for raising concerns about safety and trying to start a union.

Daniel’s case continues. But he has already forced the issue of content moderators’ rights up the agenda and established that Facebook must face accountability in Kenyan courts. His fight has become an inspiration for content moderators around the world, even appearing on the front cover of TIME magazine in February 2022.

Then last year, the entire workforce of the office where Daniel worked was unlawfully laid off so Meta could give the contract to a different outsourcing company, while effectively blacklisting all existing workers from their jobs. In June, a Kenyan judge ruled that Meta, not the outsourcing company, was the “true employer” of their content moderators, the first judgement of this kind in the world.

Also last year, alongside Kenyan partners, Foxglove co-hosted a “content moderators summit” in Nairobi, bringing together over 150 social media content moderators from TikTok, YouTube, Facebook and ChatGPT. At this summit, content moderators resolved to form the first trade union for content moderators in Africa.

Foxglove has also supported content moderators in Ireland – including supporting them to tell their stories in the Irish parliament – and in Germany, where we co-hosted the first ever summit for content moderators.

SUCCESS: Stopping the UK’s unfair A-Level Algorithm

During lockdown at the height of the Covid pandemic, the government cancelled in-person A-level exams cancelled. Instead, they proposed awarding A-level grades on the basis of an algorithm which systematically discriminated against pupils who attended schools that had struggled historically.

Foxglove teamed up with an A-level student who stood to be directly affected by the algorithm, Curtis Parfitt-Ford. We launched a legal challenge, and a petition which quickly gathered hundreds of thousands of signatures. Faced with an avalanche of criticism – and the prospect of losing in court – the government caved and the A-level algorithm was dropped.

ONGOING: Fighting for NHS data to be used for the public good

Foxglove fights for NHS health data to be used for the public good, and to protect patients’ privacy and rights to choose how their data is used and who gets to access it. This fight continues, but we’ve already had a major impact.

During the pandemic, alongside openDemocracy we took legal action to force the disclosure of secret contracts between tech giants and government, known as the ‘NHS Covid-19 data deals’. We also forced the government to drop a plan, known as GPDPR or the “GP Data Grab”, to force GPs to hand over their patients’ health records into a new data lake, without patients having any right to opt out, nor transparency on how their data would be used.

We fought a long battle to challenge the government’s plan to create the new FDP and to hand the £330m contract to Palantir. We exposed and challenged Palantir’s lobbying tactics, and their opportunistic use of the pandemic to dodge normal contract rules and gain a foothold in the NHS. Sadly, whilst we managed to force greater scrutiny of the deal, the government did ultimately hand the £330million contract to Palantir.

But we’re not giving up. We’re fighting to make sure everyone has a choice about how their health data is used in the FDP – and for the information on what data will flow into the system, and who will be able to access it, to be made fully transparent.