People and their fates are increasingly dependent on computer programs. And more often than not, it is not so obvious, but it is happening. At a British postal company, for example, there was a drama that lasted 20 years. Several thousand Post Office employees were falsely accused of embezzlement and shortages. Many of them not only lost their jobs and money, but also their homes, and some went to jail. At least 1 employee accused of major embezzlement took his own life after learning of the allegations against him.
It was all about the Horizon software that kept track of all branch sales. As it turned out, there was a bug in it. That’s what was causing the shortages, even though the branch employees were being extremely honest. Nevertheless, the management was inclined to trust the software and not the people, although there were plenty of reasons to check the applications. Moreover, the courts that heard the cases of the Post Office employees did not allow the slightest chance that the software could not work properly.
There are now 740 convicted employees from 2000 to 2014. The number of all those caught by Horizon Software is being refined. Behind these dry numbers are people and their fates. Many of them turned out to be broken – it was extremely difficult to recover from such a blow. The Post Office had to admit to a bug in the software, but it was only done under pressure of evidence. In addition, it was reported that the company was aware of the bug, but decided to “wash their dirty linen in public” and actually put their employees at risk.
Now the Post Office is trying to mitigate the consequences of Britain’s biggest miscarriage of justice – compensation has begun to be paid and the number of those affected by the Horizon software has been established. Some of those affected don’t want to settle for that and believe there should be a public inquiry. In the meantime, Horizon continues to operate on the company’s network. Who knows, maybe another report is forming right now that someone on the payroll embezzled money! The Post Office says it is considering a move to new cloud-based software, but no timeline for the move has been announced.