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3MTB Newsletter - Predictive Policing; Ban on Chinese Apps; and more
“The Future Can Be Seen. Murder Can be Prevented. The Guilty Punished Before the Crime is Committed. The System is Perfect. It's Never Wrong. Until It Comes After You.”
— Tagline of the famous 2002 movie Minority Report
Can you predict whether a crime can be committed? Well, we are slowly getting into that future. Recent protests in US & Europe against police racial biasing is putting a spotlight on a technology that is commonly called ‘Predictive Policing’. In this edition, we will skim through what this technology is about and why it is controversial.
First, some bits
The Indian government has banned 59 Apps of Chinese origin, citing “stealing and surreptitiously transmitting users' data in an unauthorized manner".
It is a no brainer to decode the real reason behind the ban. But, if successful, this would set a template for other countries to follow in pushing back Chinese tech and in retaliating China’s geopolitical overtures.
Boeing has started flight trials of the much aligned 737 Max aircraft. The test flights would run through a series of emergency scenarios in the course of several days. The entire 737 Max fleet was grounded last year following 2 fatal crashes that killed 346 people
Amazon India has announced that it has eliminated the use of single use plastics in its packaging. So, no more bubble wraps and paper will be used for cushioning. The packaging tapes will be made of bio-degradable plastics.
Microsoft is closing down all (except 4) of its retail stores. These stores were already closed due to the pandemic. Though these stores were in response to the hugely popular Apple stores, they were no where near to the later when compared to average foot falls.
How does Space smell? Astronauts describe the smell as a “mix of gunpowder, seared steak, raspberries and rum”. There is a Kickstarter project that promises to sell perfume that fragrance called ‘Eau de Space’ that smells like Space.
What is Predictive Policing?
It refers to usage of analytics and algorithms (typically AI) with massive amounts of previous crime data to predict whether a person can commit a crime or not. There are two methods
Place-based predictive policing to identify places and times of potential crimes
Person-based predictive policing to identify folks who have the higher chances of committing a crime.
PredPol, founded by UCLA scientists, is the most popular tools available, other than CrimeScan, Advance Police System, etc
This short video gives a basic understanding on how data is used for Predictive Policing.
Who are using it now?
As expected Police Departments are the only customers that use it. We don’t know yet whether Governments across the globe are tracking civilians to identify potential terrorists.
China’s Police in Xianjing
New York Police Department (in-house)
Los Angeles Police Department
Chicago Police Department (shelved)
It is reported that many Police Departments in US have secretly experimented with Predictive Policing software.
Why is it controversial?
Basically, the software algorithms rely on immense amount of past data. Critics pointed out that the data that is used to make decisions is racially biased against people of color (black in particular) and can be used to discriminate people of certain races, color or community.
So Garbage In, Garbage Out.
Santa Cruz Police Department has banned it last week for inherent racial bias. Human Rights Watch has already flagged China for using such software to monitor and detain Uyghur Muslims in XianJing region.
Here is a TedX video of dangers of Predictive Policing in criminal justice.
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Till the next edition, Stay Home, Stay Healthy and Stay Safe