The Pros and Cons of Predictive Policing

21 | If you had a magic computer that could predict when crimes would take place, would you use it? Would you share it with the police so they could prevent people from becoming victims? Well, believe it or not, the police have such a system and have been exercising it to great effect. The technology and processes behind it is called “Predictive Policing” and it is a very controversial trend  spreading across the USA. I discuss the good and the bad of this, in this episode. | Click here to support my Starbucks habit and financially support this podcast.


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About the host:

Over the past decade, Jim Stroud has built an expertise in sourcing and recruiting strategy, public speaking, lead generation, video production, podcasting, online research, competitive intelligence, online community management and training. He has consulted for such companies as Microsoft, Google, MCI, Siemens, Bernard Hodes Group and a host of startup companies. During his tenure with Randstad Sourceright, he alleviated the recruitment headaches of their clients worldwide as their Global Head of Sourcing and Recruiting Strategy.  He now serves ClickIQ as its VP, Product Evangelist.

PODCAST TRANSCRIPT

Hi, I’m Jim Stroud and this is my podcast.

One of my favorite TV shows of all time is – “Person of Interest.” Do you know that show? In it, a man invents a sentient artificial intelligence system then uses it to protect people before crimes are committed against them. This is how the show begins…

What would you say are the odds of a machine like that existing today? Hah! I think the odds are… Very good. I’ll explain after this…

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On the tv show – Person of Interest, a team of people operating outside of the law, protect American citizens with the help of a sentient artificial intelligence system. Although I cannot say with 100% surety that such a machine exists, I think the basic building blocks of such device are already in play. And those blocks make up the trend of “Predictive Policing,” which is technology and processes that stop crimes, likely to occur, before they happen.  Let me quote a few articles to prove my point.

The New York Times says this, quote…

Mr. Brown, whose criminal record includes drug and assault charges, is at the center of an experiment taking place in dozens of police departments across the country, one in which the authorities have turned to complex computer algorithms to try to pinpoint the people most likely to be involved in future violent crimes — as either predator or prey. The goal is to do all they can to prevent the crime from happening.

The strategy, known as 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.  

Business Insider has this to say, quote…

Predictive policework is rooted in complex mathematical models, but the basic premise is actually quite simple. A foundational paper on modeling crime compares crime to earthquakes to explain the rationale.

Just as earthquakes tend to lead to more earthquakes nearby and in the near future, gang retaliations, serial offenders, and repeated burglaries on a single location tend to create clusters of criminal offences that, with the right algorithms, police can forecast.

Previous predictive policing methods primarily focused on finding locations where crimes were likely to occur. A report from the nonprofit RAND Corporation, however, suggests that predictive policing can help forsee not only the location, but the times of crimes as well as individuals likely to commit future offenses. It can even predict those likely to be victims of crimes.  

And here’s one more quote; this time from Digital Trends Quote…

Cortica, an Israeli company with deep roots in security and AI research, recently formed a partnership in India with Best Group to analyze the terabytes of data streaming from CCTV cameras in public areas. One of the goals is to improve safety in public places, such as city streets, bus stops, and train stations.

It’s already common for law enforcement in cities like London and New York to employ facial recognition and license plate matching as part of their video camera surveillance. But Cortica’s AI promises to take it much further by looking for “behavioral anomalies” that signal someone is about to commit a violent crime.

The software is based on the type of military and government security screening systems that try to identify terrorists by monitoring people in real-time, looking for so-called micro-expressions — minuscule twitches or mannerisms that can belie a person’s nefarious intentions. Such telltale signs are so small they can elude an experienced detective but not the unblinking eye of AI.

The intent of all this surveillance is to protect the public and make everyone feel safe. And I applaud any and all in the security services who do what they do so I can sleep soundly at night and live another day; but, what is the cost of all this security? I don’t mean cost in dollars. I am referring to the psychological penalties. I also point to loss of liberty. Let me give you something to think about. For one, constant surveillance makes people alter their behavior and not just their bad behavior.

This quote from CJFECanadian Journalists for Free Expression. Quote…

So, how does mass surveillance affect the way we act? A 2016 study showed that people alter their behavior when they are reminded that the government is watching their activities. To test the effects of surveillance, participants in the study were first shown a fictional news headline about the United States targeting the Islamic State in an airstrike. They were then asked how they felt about the event while being regularly reminded that their responses were being monitored. As a result, most people in the study began to suppress opinions about the fictional event that they felt to be controversial or that they believed may lead to the government to scrutinize them.

Interestingly, the study also showed that participants who support the idea of mass surveillance were the most likely to suppress their own non-conformist opinions. | End Quote…

I very much like the idea of Predictive Policing. I especially like it when I hear of companies like PredPol which uses big data and machine learning to predict where crime will take place. One success the company highlights is a 22 percent drop in residential burglaries in Tacoma, Washington thanks in part to their technology.

And yet, I all too often hear a dissenting voice against such technologies because they are purported to be faulty and biased. Listen to this quote from The Register. Quote…  

American police and the judiciary are increasingly relying on software to catch, prosecute and sentence criminal suspects, but the code is untested, unavailable to suspects’ defense teams, and in some cases provably biased.

In a presentation at the DEF CON hacking conference in Las Vegas, delegates were given the example of the Correctional Offender Management Profiling for Alternative Sanctions (COMPAS) system, which is used by trial judges to decide sentencing times and parole guidelines.

“The company behind COMPAS acknowledges gender is a factor in its decision-making process and that, as men are more likely to be [repeat offenders] recidivists, so they are less likely to be recommended for probation,” explained Jerome Greco, digital forensics staff attorney for the Legal Aid Society.

“Women [are] thus more likely to get probation, and there are higher sentences for men. We don’t know how the data is swaying it or how significant gender is. The company is hiding behind trade secrets legislation to stop the code being checked.”

These so-called advanced systems are often trained on biased data sets, he said. Facial recognition software is often trained on data sets filled with predominantly white men, he said, making it less effective at correctly matching up people of color, according to research by academics.

So, where do I stand on all this? I confess to being a bit conflicted. Surveillance is necessary to keep us safe but it can go too far, such as with the social credit score happening in China. Maybe I would feel better about the government surveillance if there was an impartial auditor charged with monitoring these algorithms for fairness, an appeals process should someone be falsely accused of a crime by some machine and put a human in the loop. In other words, include a human being in all of this. For example, say some software on a CCTV camera identifies someone as a terrorist. Before the FBI is called in, a human being has to look at the footage and confirm that the person is who the machine thinks they are. I don’t know. Maybe they are already doing that. I hope so.

If you love what you heard, hate what you heard or, don’t know what you just heard, I want to know about it. You can reach me at my website – www.JimStroud.com. In addition to finding source material and related information for this podcast episode, you’ll find other goodies that I hope will make you smile. Oh, before I go, please financially support this podcast with a little somethin’-somethin’ in my virtual tip jar. (There’s a link in the podcast description.) Your generosity encourages me to keep this podcast train chugging down the track. Whoot-whoot, whoot-whoot, whoot-whoot…

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Barcoding the Homeless

14Do you give money to the homeless people you meet on the street? I do, sometimes. But, mostly I don’t and that’s because I think it will be spent on some sort of vice and not on say… food or shelter. This is why I prefer to donate to a charity. If I give it to a charity, I can make a reasonable assumption that the money I donate will go to the intended purpose of getting someone the help they need. But what if there was a way to give funds directly to homeless people you encounter on the street with the guarantee that it would be spent responsibly? Well, I’ve found a very intriguing technical option that promises to do that very thing. Tune in to find out more. | Check out: 12 DuckDuckGo Search Tips You Should Know to Boost Productivity | And please support my Starbucks habit by dropping something in my virtual tip jar. Thank you.

Subscribe to this podcast via your favorite podcast platform!

About the host:

Over the past decade, Jim Stroud has built an expertise in sourcing and recruiting strategy, public speaking, lead generation, video production, podcasting, online research, competitive intelligence, online community management and training. He has consulted for such companies as Microsoft, Google, MCI, Siemens, Bernard Hodes Group and a host of startup companies. During his tenure with Randstad Sourceright, he alleviated the recruitment headaches of their clients worldwide as their Global Head of Sourcing and Recruiting Strategy. His career highlights can be viewed on his website at www.JimStroud.com.

PODCAST TRANSCRIPT

Hi! I’m Jim Stroud and this is my podcast.

Do you give money to the homeless people you meet on the street? I do, sometimes. But, mostly I don’t and that’s because I think it will be spent on some sort of vice and not on say… food or shelter. This is why I prefer to donate to a charity. If I give it to a charity, I can make a reasonable assumption that the money I donate will go to the intended purpose of getting someone the help they need.

But what if there was a way to give funds directly to homeless people you encounter on the street with the guarantee that it would be spent responsibly? Well, I happen to know of a technology that promises to do that very thing. You know the barcodes on food that you scan in the grocery store? Well, some people are putting barcodes on the homeless and donating to them that way. I’ll tell you more about it after this.

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Okay, barcodes on the homeless. Here are the details, quoted directly from “The Mirror,” a news site based in the UK.

A charity working with homeless people have created wearable barcodes in a bid to help increase donations in a cashfree society.

The new initiative called Greater Change, backed by Oxford University, hands homeless people a QR code similar to those used for online tickets

People who want to give money, but do not have change to hand, can scan the code using their phone and make an online payment to the person.

Further on in the article, it says…

Each account is managed by a case worker who ensures that the money is spent sensibly and will make a positive impact towards the life of the individual.

The agreed targets can go to towards such things as a passport or rental deposit.

Alex McCallion, founder of Greater Change, told the BBC: “The problem we’re trying to solve here is that we live in an increasingly cashless society and, as well as this, when people give they worry about what this money might be spent on.

“So the solution we’ve come up with is a giving mechanism through your smart phone with a restrictive fund

To give the transaction a personal touch, good Samaritans will also be presented with a profile on the rough sleeper. It will give information on their circumstances, what their job used to be and how they became homeless in the first place.

When I read this, I was more than a little bit dumbfounded. The intention behind the initiative may have been good yet, something did not sit right with me. I looked up more articles discussing “Greater Change” and their initiative, not for more information per se, but to read the comments. (And there were plenty of comments!) They ranged from slightly sympathetic to snarky to down right rude. Here are the ones I thought were the most notable.

  • COMMENT: It’s a trick.  When you pull out your phone to scan the card to give the guy $1, the homeless guy will steal your phone and laugh at your measly one intended dollar.
  • COMMENT: First there was the “Gig” economy. Now there is the “Beg” economy.
  • COMMENT: How exactly, does making it easier to pan-handle successfully move anyone closer to the stated goal of ending homelessness?
  • COMMENT: The problem is, if he is homeless, how is he going to make rental payments all year long?
  • COMMENT: Didn’t we go down this road before? With the numbers and the tattoos and the showers? How long does it have to be between assigning someone a number, and eliminating the undesired numbers? (NOTE: Referring to the holocaust, no doubt)
  • COMMENT: It’s a way to measure income received by beggars for tax purposes.
  • COMMENT: Yup, a new low: Too lazy to even beg (or explain yer circumstances)!

All of these comments struck a chord with me; resonating over and over in my brain. Especially this point: How does enabling homeless pan-handling help said homeless to get off the street? And stay off the street? At best, you are encouraging a cycle of dependency. I think I would rather invest in some sort of entrepreneurial pursuit with a return on investment.

There is a website called Kiva, that let’s you lend as little as $25 to create opportunities for people all over the world. Why not do the same for the homeless here? A portion of what is donated could be for immediate needs like food and shelter, but the lionshare of donations would be towards a startup business of some kind. (Even if it was something so modest as, shining shoes inside a bus station.)

Take it a step further and maybe people could donate business advice, offer affiliate products to sell, give temporary office space or clothing, so that someone could not only start a business in order to support themselves but, eventually, employ others as well. I think if the people over at “Greater Change” further developed their app to do things like that, I would be more supportive of it. But that’s just me. What do you think?

If you love what you heard, hate what you heard or, don’t know what you just heard, I want to know about it. You can reach me at my website – www.JimStroud.com. In addition to finding source material and related information for this podcast episode, you’ll find other goodies that I hope will make you smile. Oh, before I go, please financially support this podcast with a little somethin’-somethin’ in my virtual tip jar. (There’s a link in the podcast description.) Your generosity encourages me to keep this podcast train chugging down the track. Whoot-whoot, whoot-whoot, whoot-whoot…

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Would you ride in a car without a driver?

#12 | Would you ride in a self-driving car? Yeah, neither would I.  As far as the public at large is concerned, they wouldn’t either. One 2018 survey cited only 21 percent of the public was willing to even try riding in an autonomous vehicle.  I think that’s a BIG problem for a lot of startups and major companies who have already invested a lot of money into the technology.  So, what can they do to convince the public to ride in them? Well, I have a few ideas. Tune in to hear them.


Click here to listen to this episode on Anchor.fm.

Subscribe to this podcast via your favorite podcast platform!

About the host:

Over the past decade, Jim Stroud has built an expertise in sourcing and recruiting strategy, public speaking, lead generation, video production, podcasting, online research, competitive intelligence, online community management and training. He has consulted for such companies as Microsoft, Google, MCI, Siemens, Bernard Hodes Group and a host of startup companies. During his tenure with Randstad Sourceright, he alleviated the recruitment headaches of their clients worldwide as their Global Head of Sourcing and Recruiting Strategy. His career highlights can be viewed on his website at www.JimStroud.com.

PODCAST TRANSCRIPT

Hi, I’m Jim Stroud and this is my podcast.

The path to progress is not always easy. Recently, I read a report from the DailyMail which sounded like a harbinger of things to come. Here’s a quote…

“Police in Arizona have recorded 21 incidents in the past two years concerning vigilante citizens who have hurled rocks, pointed guns at and slashed the tires of Waymo’s autonomous vans. In other cases, people stood in front of the vehicles to prevent them from driving, yelled at them, chased them or forced them off of the road…”

This type of reaction to technology is nothing new. In fact, its been going on for a lot longer than you might think. I’ll explain after this message.

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Imagine you are an Entrepreneur and you produced clothing for various customers around the world. One day, a machine was invented that did the work you performed, and it did it faster and more efficiently than you ever could. And to make matters even more interesting, the cost of using machines was cheaper than the cost of employing highly skilled laborers. Sound familiar? If it does, you might be a student of history because that very thing happened in the 19th century and it sparked a movement – the luddite movement.

The Luddites were 19th-century English textile who protested against newly developed labor-economizing technologies, primarily between the years 1811 and 1816. Inventions like the stocking frames, spinning frames and power looms introduced during the Industrial Revolution threatened to replace the highly skilled luddites with less-skilled, low-wage laborers who could run those machines and thus, leave them without work. The Luddite movement culminated in a region-wide rebellion in Northwestern England that required a massive deployment of military force to suppress.

Fast forward to the year 2015 and taxi drivers all over the world are protesting how Uber and its technology has disrupted their way of life. The backlash of the protesting taxi drivers included fires, arrests and unprecedented civil unrest. If you want to know the details, Google the term “uber riots” and be amazed by how far the disdain for Uber goes in certain countries.

Now fast forward to 2018 when people are attacking Waymo’s autonomous vans. When I read the article, my reflex was to dismiss the concern as neo-luddites fighting the inevitable future. However, as I read more about why the people were attacking the autonomous vehicles, I had to admit to sharing some of their concerns. Here are a few quotes from an article posted by The Next Web.

“One Arizonan, from the city of Chandler, became so fed up with the sight of Waymo‘s vans in his neighborhood that he stood on his lawn pointing a pistol at the human safety driver inside of one as it passed his home. He told police he wanted the person in the car to be afraid, presumably to send the message that self-driving cars aren’t welcome. He’s one of dozens of citizens (on record) who’ve engaged in wildly dangerous acts provoked by, apparently, nothing more than the idea of a car driving itself.”

Here’s another one…

“People have thrown rocks at Waymos. The tire on one was slashed while it was stopped in traffic. The vehicles have been yelled at, chased and one Jeep was responsible for forcing the vans off roads six times.”

And one more…

“Why are people so angry at self-driving cars? After all, none of the reported incidents we’ve seen indicate the people attacking machines and harassing their human safety drivers are experiencing road rage. It doesn’t appear as though anyone got cut off by a robot, or got tailgated, or had one sitting at a green light in front of them. It seems the existential threat that driverless cars represent is the sole catalyst for these outbursts.”

As I read deeper into the article and others like it, the resentment was not that the autonomous vehicles were taking people’s jobs away. It was primarily a safety concern. In March 2018, Elaine Herzberg was killed by a self-driving Uber vehicle and no one wants to see that history repeat itself. I get it. It is a very real concern. So, what can be done about it? What can car companies do to make the general public feel better about autonomous vehicles? Well, I have a few ideas…

“The Society of Risk Analysis” published a report in the Risk Analysis journal which sought to determine how safe is safe enough for self-driving vehicles to be accepted by the general public. According to their research, the answer is approximately four to five times as safe as human-driven vehicles. So, how do you do that?

Let’s say that all autonomous vehicles must be linked to a big brain in the sky that records every accident and every fatality caused by an autonomous vehicle. Once that incident is recorded, everybody sees what happened and every variable that contributed to the accident (weather conditions, human beings not paying attention, whatever). As soon as new data hits the system, a community of scientists works on a solution and programs that solution into all autonomous vehicles so the same accident, under the same conditions will not happen again. Furthermore, inside the autonomous vehicle is data detailing how many days since a fatality was caused by an autonomous vehicles. That data would be or should be, accessible to people before and after they ride in an autonomous vehicle; all so that they can feel empowered to make a decision that’s best for them. Make sense? Maybe not. I’m curious. How would you make autonomous vehicles safer?

If you love what you heard, hate what you heard or, don’t know what you just heard, I want to know about it. You can reach me at my website – www.JimStroud.com. In addition to finding source material and related information for this podcast episode, you’ll find other goodies that I hope will make you smile. Oh, before I go, please financially support this podcast with a little somethin’-somethin’ in my virtual tip jar. (There’s a link in the podcast description.) Your generosity encourages me to keep this podcast train chugging down the track. Whoot-whoot, whoot-whoot, whoot-whoot…

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Google, don’t be evil! Too late…

Google Dragonfly

Google’s motto used to be “Don’t Be Evil” but, they removed it.
I don’t know why. Maybe its because of projects like Dragonfly.
Dragonfly is a search engine made for China. At the request of
the Chinese government, some info will be blocked from
Chinese citizens.

I think that’s evil. Other people do too. Among them, Google’s
own employees. Some people have even quit Google over it.

I plan on quitting Google because of Dragonfly and other things.
I’m not going to do it all at once. It will be gradual. The first
thing I will do is list all of their “free” products I am using.
The second thing is to seek out alternatives, especially those
that are more privacy conscious, and move forward with them.

I will likely not stop using Google overnight. However, I will
immediately reduce its influence in my personal life by
using it only for work-related stuff. Care to join me?

Google alternatives I am reviewing and/or now using.

Instead of Google Chrome
# Brave | I use it now.  I love it.
# Vivaldi | I use it now. I love it.
# Firefox
# Maxthon

Instead of Google Search
# DuckDuckGo | I use it. I love it.
# Yandex
# Qwant
# Startpage

Instead of Gmail
# Protonmail
# Mailfence
# Tutanota
# Mailbox

Instead of Google Plus
# MeWe
# Gab
# Diaspora

Instead of YouTube
# Real.video
# Vimeo

If you know of any other tools I should be using, please do let me know in the comments below. Thanks in advance.

Jim

How To Archive Then, Delete Your Google Data

I have been doing some research on Google lately and the more I do, the less inclined I am to support their business or trust them with my personal data. As such, I am systematically UnGoogling myself (as best I can). I imagine that I will always use their search engine but, I will not rely solely on it; especially when it comes to controversial issues. Other things that make me uncomfortable with Google are cited in the articles below but, that is only a partial list.

But, I digress.  I am carefully monitoring what Google and other big tech is doing with my data and zealously seeking alternatives for the sake of my personal privacy. But, that’s a blog post for a different day. For now, let me share this with you.

Google keeps a record of your activity on its platform. You can view your activity history by clicking here. (You will have to sign into your Google account.) Once there, click the “Delete activity by” link, as depicted by the arrow below.

Delete and archive your Google history

On the “Delete activity by” link, I can delete activity on all products based on a custom date or by my entire history with Google.

Delete and archive your Google history

Hmm… Before I click the delete button, I am more than a bit curious. So, I go back to the My Activity page and click the “Other Google Activity” link.

Once I am on the “Other Google Activity” page, I immediately notice the Location History section.  Check out the “Visit Timeline” button.

I opted out of this data some time ago (for what good it did), so not much to see on my timeline. If I had not opted out of this, I would see everywhere I’ve been that Google was aware of. I suggest you check yourself out NOW, just to see even more how Google tracks you.

Okay, let’s go back to the “Other Google Activity” link and scroll down until I see the “Download your data from My Activity” section. From there, I click the “Download Your Data” link (as the arrow is pointing to).

Once on the “Download Your Data” page, I will have the option to choose which Google product data I want to archive.  Once I make my selection, I click the “Next” button at the bottom of that page. (Not shown in the picture below.)

At this point, I’m basically done.  I choose how I want to receive the archived data (.Zip or .TGZ) and wait for Google to email me a link to where I can download it. More than likely, I will download it to an external drive for later reference.

The data I am backing up includes my Gmail as well. Just in case you were curious. It saves it in a MBox format.

Are you keeping up with what Google (and other tech companies) are doing in terms of censorship and privacy (or lack thereof)? If so, let me know your thoughts in the comments below. Am I being paranoid? Or, not paranoid enough? #tinfoilhat