Do You Know How the “Precrime Industry” Is Already Influencing Your Life?
Nov. 16, 2013
Computers are predicting crimes for cops. What’s next?
A small story popped up in the news this November — “A unique collaboration between a University of California, Riverside sociologist and the Indio Police Department has produced a computer model that predicts, by census block group, where burglaries are likely to occur. … The result is an 8 percent decline in thefts in the first nine months of 2013.” The Indio police chief called the project the “wave of the future.” And by all appearances, it does appear to be on the menu for Federal law enforcement. The National Security Agency and its digital dragnets like PRISM — one of the big Snowden leaks — aren’t just about immediate surveillance of criminal activity — that’s only a limited use of the potential of a technology that creates profiles of a population, records all their significant behavior, communications and who their friends are. A recent report from the FBI’s Behavioral Threat Assessment Center (BTAC) on pre-planned massacres like the one at Virginia Tech discusses the benefits of “assessments of the risk of future violence while enabling the development and implementation of dynamic enabling the development and implementation of dynamic behavioral strategies to disrupt planned attacks.” In other words, stopping pre-crime.
But will it work?
Human data, like juridical definitions, are much too fluid to map and control. Nevermind the huge number of failures by law enforcement agencies to follow obvious leads using their own intelligence on the Boston Marathon bombing suspects — suggesting we might have a technocracy that’s already too sprawling to succeed.