THURROCK Council has been slammed for its use of a computer system to profile residents and predict their future traits.

The software, intended to help Thurrock Council predict if a child is at risk of abuse, could soon be used to predict if a resident will become homeless or take part in antisocial behaviour.

Thurrock has been using council data and analytics technology to develop what it calls a “predictive modelling platform”, which has helped to identify children who could be at risk so that social services can intervene.

The council has defended the system, stating it complies with data protection, and that analytics only provide part of the process, with additional verification used.

The council began using the system, developed by private company Xantura, four years ago to cut costs and allow services to identify cases before they become more complex.

But the council has come under criticism for using the programme.

A spokesperson for civil liberites organisation Big Brother Watch said: “We are alarmed to learn that councils are using predictive systems that invade families’ private lives and make stigmatising assumptions about them. It is astounding that councils have managed to advance such a terrible idea so far.

“This seriously risks profiling families and casting suspicion over their parenting abilities on the basis of high-tech stereotyping.”

The council said the system so far has an 80 per cent success rate.

Sue Little, Thurrock councillor responsible for children and adult social care at Thurrock council, said: “It is important to emphasise that data analytics systems are only part of the process and further verification and checks are carried out prior to any intervention.

“At a time when demand for children’s social care is rising, the use of data analytics provides us with an opportunity to better identify those most in need of help and support and enables us to reduce the need for interventions, which can be distressing for families. We are satisfied that our profiling systems are compliant with data protection legislation and best practice.”