Predictive Policing Scares The Hell Out of Me

I swear I'm not just talking about the plot of the movie Minority Report or some hair-brained sci-fi novel. Police departments in Kansas City, Los Angeles, Miami, and Nashville as well as district attorney's offices in Manhattan and Philadelphia are using a computer program to try to predict who will commit crime. That's right. They're using computers to try to predict the future actions of real people in real life. From the New York Times article: 

...predictive policing, combines elements of traditional policing, like increased attention to crime "hot spots" and close monitoring of recent parolees. But it often also uses other data, including information about friendships, social media activity and drug use, to identify "hot people" and aid the authorities in forecasting crime.

Um, yeah... that's scary as hell. This essentially combines the already scary and (IMHO) discriminatory policing policy known as "Broken Windows" and combines it with scanning social media and who you're friends with in order to determine what you might do in the future. And if they decide you're a "hot person" (which in other connotations might be a desirable title, but not in this one) they put on the full court press to not only arrest you for even the most insignificant offenses but then prosecute those piddly little things to the fullest extent possible. 

I understand the desire to utilize advanced technology to advance the archaic criminal justice system, but this is something to dip your toe into, not jump in feet first without knowing if you'll sink or swim. It wouldn't surprise me if this works well in some places but also leads to a bunch of stomping on people's constitutionally protected civil rights in new and scary ways. 

Mike HowardComment