Friday, October 23, 2015

Police Can't Predict The Future: Fortunately, They Don't Have To
"Can computers, fancy mathematics, and big data predict crime, even predict who will commit murder? The New York Times says yes: in a story revolving around Kansas City ('Police Program Aims to Pinpoint Those Most Likely to Commit Crimes,' September 24, 2015), it highlighted the growing use of 'predictive policing': 'complex computer algorithms to try to pinpoint the people most likely to be involved in future violent crimes,' part of a 'larger trend by governments and corporations that are increasingly turning to predictive analytics' for forecasting. The Kansas City No Violence Alliance (KC NoVA) was one example, the Times said, along with others in, for example, the Manhattan DA's office. Attention to factors like 'previous arrests; unemployment; an unstable home life; friends and relatives who have been killed, are in prison or have gang ties; and problems with drugs or alcohol,' processed through sophisticated software, allow police to target those at highest risk.

Civil libertarians predictably take a dim view of such 'Minority Report' policing. Get it wrong and 'you could be reducing civil liberties and Fourth Amendment protections for certain people on bad information and bad data,' law professor Andrew Guthrie Ferguson told Fox News. To many, it sounds like familiar old profiling decanted from high-tech new bottles. 'Our concern is guilt by association,' said the American Civil Liberties Union's Ezekial Edwards. 'Because you live in a certain neighborhood or hang out with certain people, we are now going to be suspicious of you and treat you differently, not because you have committed a crime or because we have information that allows us to arrest you, but because our predictive tool shows us you might commit a crime at some point in the future.'"

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