From Pine View Farm

It’s All about the Algorithm, Self-Fulfilling Prophecies Dept. 0

The EFF reports that Santa Clara, California, has ended its near-decade long experiment with “predictive policing” after finding that it just does not deliver. Here’s a tiny bit from their article (emphasis added):

The technology attempts to function similarly while conducting the less prevalent “person based” predictive policing. This takes the form of opaque rating systems that assign people a risk value based on a number of data streams including age, suspected gang affiliation, and the number of times a person has been a victim as well as an alleged perpetrator of a crime. The accumulated total of this data could result in someone being placed on a “hot list”, as happened to over 1,000 people in Chicago who were placed on one such “Strategic Subject List.” As when specific locations are targeted, this technology cannot actually predict crime—and in an attempt to do so, it may expose people to targeted police harassment or surveillance without any actual proof that a crime will be committed.

There is a reason why the use of predictive policing continues to expand despite its dubious foundations: it makes money. Many companies have developed tools for data-driven policing; some of the biggest arePredPol, HunchLab, CivicScape, and Palantir. Academic institutions have also developed predictive policing technologies, such as Rutgers University’s RTM Diagnostics or Carnegie Mellon University’s CrimeScan, which is used in Pittsburgh. . . .

It is almost serendipitous, in a darkly sardonic way, that, in the same week that the EFF released its report, the Tampa Bay Times published the results of its investigation into how predictive policing lead to a cesspool of police surveillance and harassment in Pasco County, Florida. A nugget (again, emphasis added):

First the Sheriff’s Office generates lists of people it considers likely to break the law, based on arrest histories, unspecified intelligence and arbitrary decisions by police analysts.

Then it sends deputies to find and interrogate anyone whose name appears, often without probable cause, a search warrant or evidence of a specific crime.

They swarm homes in the middle of the night, waking families and embarrassing people in front of their neighbors. They write tickets for missing mailbox numbers and overgrown grass, saddling residents with court dates and fines. They come again and again, making arrests for any reason they can.

One former deputy described the directive like this: “Make their lives miserable until they move or sue.”


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