Follow Slashdot blog updates by subscribing to our blog RSS feed

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Get HideMyAss! VPN, PC Mag's Top 10 VPNs of 2016 for 55% off for a Limited Time ×
Crime Technology

Police Agencies Using Software To Generate "Threat Scores" of Suspects (washingtonpost.com) 148

Koreantoast writes: It's no secret that governments across the globe have been taking advantage of new technologies to create stronger surveillance systems on citizens. While many have focused on the actions of intelligence agencies, local police departments continue to create more sophisticated systems as well. A recent article highlights one new system deployed by the Fresno, California police department, Intrado's Beware. The system scours police data, public records, social media, and public Internet data to provide a "threat level" of a potential suspect or residency. The software is part of a broader trend of military counterinsurgency tools and algorithms being repurposed for civil use. While these tools can help police manage actively dangerous situations, providing valuable intel when responding to calls, the analysis also raises serious civil liberties questions both in privacy (where the data comes from) and accuracy (is the data valid, was the analysis done correctly). Also worrying are the long term ramifications to such technologies: there has already been some speculation about "citizen scores," could a criminal threat score be something similar? At very least, as Matt Cagle of the ACLU noted, "there needs to be a meaningful debate... there needs to be safeguards and oversight."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Police Agencies Using Software To Generate "Threat Scores" of Suspects

Comments Filter:
  • by Chas ( 5144 ) on Monday January 11, 2016 @06:31PM (#51282277) Homepage Journal

    Please, step into your designated cell. Your imprisonment for things you might do will begin in a second you potentially violent scumbag!

    *BANG*BANG*BANG*BANG*

    Sorry! We determined you were too much of a risk to our safety. You have been eliminated. Good bye!

    • Sounds closer to the "Crime Coefficient" from Psycho-Pass.

    • by mjwx ( 966435 )

      Please, step into your designated cell. Your imprisonment for things you might do will begin in a second you potentially violent scumbag!

      *BANG*BANG*BANG*BANG*

      Sorry! We determined you were too much of a risk to our safety. You have been eliminated. Good bye!

      Don't be silly.

      We all know prisons of the future will be underground, run by computers and anyone who does not follow directions will be intestinated.

    • Oh come on, that's just too far fetched.They would never say "Good bye"!

      Too busy moving on to the next one....

  • If cities can't even ban Pit Bulls due to their known risk, I'm pretty sure this thing doesn't have legs either.

    • known risk??? you mean having bad owners??? because thats the only known risk
      • When they conducted actual temperament testing, 'Pitbulls' tested in the top quartile for passing rate. That's not to say that it couldn't be improved, first by getting them out of the hands of 'bad' owners, followed up by a directed breeding program for good temperament.

        • by swb ( 14022 )

          I have no idea if this still applies, but I've read that when pit bulls were bred for fighting they were also selected (intentionally or not) for not attacking people as "man biters" were a risk to handlers.

          I think any dog breed with a strong dominance trait could potentially become a problem if it wasn't trained or socialized, and I think mostly this risk goes up with the size of the dog in question.

          (Disclaimer: I have a pit bull / Great Dane mix, an he's great with people, but not so good with other dogs

      • DUDE. Hello, racism? Since when did that become acceptable!?!?!? Everyone click the flag on the post above and get it off this site, trash like this doesn't belong here.
      • I think you may have misunderstood my post... I was drawing a parallel between police assigning a threat score to suspects, and people assuming that certain breeds of dogs are inherently more dangerous... I'm not making a statement about dogs... I'm making a statement about profiling, and the fact that people won't accept it. You watch, the first guy to get a bum rap due to this "threat score" is going to take it to a judge and have the law euthanized. It just won't stand. That's all I'm sayin'.

    • That's probably because there is no known risk with Pitbulls; only with Pitbull owners.
  • How much do you love the Computer?

    The Computer is your Friend.

  • Will a Wall Street thug with a suitcase of cash be scored identically as a street thug with a suitcase of crack?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by DaHat ( 247651 )

      I was unaware that carrying a suitcase full of cash was usually illegal... the same cannot be said for a suitcase full of crack.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        I was unaware that carrying a suitcase full of cash was usually illegal...

        http://www.nydailynews.com/new... [nydailynews.com]

        Welcome to America.

      • by creimer ( 824291 ) on Monday January 11, 2016 @06:57PM (#51282521) Homepage

        Only if you're suspected of being a drug dealer under asset forfeiture laws. The police can arrest you, take your cash and don't have to give it back. Some police departments do it as a matter of policy because it easier to shake down the community than ask for a tax raise to pay for new equipment.

        http://www.offthegridnews.com/current-events/police-seizing-cash-and-property-from-citizens-without-charges/ [offthegridnews.com]

        • by Firethorn ( 177587 ) on Monday January 11, 2016 @07:41PM (#51282871) Homepage Journal

          The police can arrest you, take your cash and don't have to give it back.

          Actually, they don't even have to do the first step. They just take the money, saying they have 'probable cause' to believe that it's involved in drug trafficking.
          Can't prove where the money came from? You just sold a bunch of drugs.
          Can prove where the money came from? You're looking to buy drugs.
          "What about my right to a trial?" - Oh, we know that would fail, so we're not charging you with anything, just your money, and because money isn't a person, it doesn't get rights!
          "What about MY rights to MY property?" - Oh, you're so silly!

          • Can't prove where the money came from? You just sold a bunch of drugs. Can prove where the money came from? You're looking to buy drugs.

            Just out of interest, what other scenario can you think of that is reasonable?
            I've only had wads of cash in my pocket for a couple of reasons, and each time I had documented evidence about where the cash came from and why I had it (buying a car privately, or paying a tradesman cash). While I agree that rule sounds flakey, I'm struggling to think up any scenarios for false positives.

            • by Anonymous Coward

              "Just out of interest, what other scenario can you think of that is reasonable?"

              Not being poor?

              But civil asset forfeiture is usually used against stuff not money:
              The District of Columbia state prosecutor took them to court and recovered 375 cars that had been seized with no charges pressed against their owners. Gold jewelry, pearl necklaces, if its valuable its seized.

              And the shakedown aspect is also clear:

              "When Jennifer Boatright and Ron Henderson complained to the county in the hope of retrieving their sa

              • I see nobody responded to this post, maybe if you weren't AC people would read it. It's important, so I took the liberty of reposting it, in that hope that people will pull their heads out of their asses and at some point admit that the police and their supporters are a criminal class.

                "Just out of interest, what other scenario can you think of that is reasonable?"

                Not being poor?

                But civil asset forfeiture is usually used against stuff not money: The District of Columbia state prosecutor took them t
            • What was your "documented evidence?" How about this - the cop seizes your money anyways, and tells you to 'prove it in court'. They offer to settle for you getting half your money back.

              You just named one of the frequent false positives. Buying a car - what sort of evidence might you have? How do you 'prove' that you're not lying?

              Other reasons I've seen are immigrant families(notorious for distrusting banks) looking to buy a business or equipment.

              The amounts seized can be as low as a couple hundred bucks

              • What was your "documented evidence?"

                Bank statements, ie where I got the money from.

                How about this - the cop seizes your money anyways, and tells you to 'prove it in court'. They offer to settle for you getting half your money back.

                So I go to court with my bank statement and get my money back. That's what courts are for.

                You just named one of the frequent false positives. Buying a car - what sort of evidence might you have?

                Bank statements

                How do you 'prove' that you're not lying?

                Bank statements

                Other reasons I've seen are immigrant families(notorious for distrusting banks) looking to buy a business or equipment.

                With their native Pesos? Or did they exchange their local currency, at a bank or money changer who is required by law to give a receipt for USD?

                The amounts seized can be as low as a couple hundred bucks - and I'm now an 'older' gentleman, I traditionally grab a couple hundred just because I remember a time when credit cards weren't always an option, and checks weren't accepted out of state.

                Where do you grab it from? Do you have a money fountain that magically produces cash out of thin air? Or do you get it from your bank account which has a full auditable trail?

                Take somebody who has bad credit or whatever, suddenly they're back on cash, and might have to carry even more.

                How did they earn it? That

                • Bank statements, ie where I got the money from.

                  They don't care [newyorker.com].
                  "Morrow, who is black, was taken to jail, where he pleaded with authorities to call his bank to see proof of his recent cash withdrawal. They declined."

                  As for buying a car - a bank statement is not evidence that you're intending to use the cash to buy a car. They'll say you're intending to use it to buy drugs.

                  So I go to court with my bank statement and get my money back. That's what courts are for.

                  “Don’t even bother getting a lawyer. The money always stays here.” - The officer that seized Morrow's money.

                  BTW, Morrow filed suit in 2008. He finally got his money

      • " the average pitbull owner is a shady motherfucker."

        And you seem to still be unaware of the fact, but try walking through the wrong neighborhood with one and see how long it takes you to get arrested.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      A better test of sw quality would be to show that the scores for leos are the same as for drug cartel members and serial killers.

    • To the extent that it scores data the police already have, such as arrest history, etc., I think it will be more fair than the traditional subjective "the usual suspects". Cops often know who the bad guys on their beat are. They use that knowledge in a very fuzzy, subjective way.

      In some cases, a cop decides that someone "seems shady" based on extremely poor "evidence". A numerical score would be much more objective and therefore more fair, representing the ACTUAL risk based on the information available.

      F

      • by creimer ( 824291 )

        A numerical score would be much more objective and therefore more fair, representing the ACTUAL risk based on the information available.

        Like the AAA credit ratings given by the rating agencies on the repackaged liar loans that became worthless in the Great Recession? Despite everything that happened since then, the rating agencies haven't changed a damn thing.

  • it's over there, out of sight, safely guarded.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Facebook, twitter, here I come. Not having an internet persona is probably going to rank you high on this list. Also do not forget to make sure you are a registered member on a pornsite or something, having no vices at all will also stick out.
    And I guess this will be my last AC posting as well. Sorry for that, I know you will miss me.

  • Being tagged as "socnet non-user" (as opposed to "still indeterminate") is probably not a good flag, but I'll take it.

    We desperately love to disregard complex multivariables. We want one-line evaluations of job candidates, one-number GPAs to represent an education. Take a moment to imagine that you could convince everyone a "relationship/marriage compatibility score" was a sound, valid determinate and not wildly meaningless and dynamic - you'd make millions.

    Anyway, my point is the headline was basical
  • ....and probably a lot they just don't understand.

    That's what this sounds like. They have metric assloads of data, so much they don't really know what to do with it all and maybe some of it they don't know what it means. But that's what correlations are for, isn't it? To manufacture causation?

  • by buck-yar ( 164658 ) on Monday January 11, 2016 @06:45PM (#51282425)

    Why wouldn't you want this? It just sums up public information.

    Maybe we could check ours (like getting our FICA score)?

    • Maybe we could check ours (like getting our FICA score)?

      You can't actually get your FICA score though, unless somebody wants to give it to you, or you're willing to pay.

      What you can do is get access to the records behind the FICA score, and contest them if you think there's an error.

      The number of mangled addresses in my profile is hilarious. Half of one address combined with half of another.

    • Prostitution Precrime just for driveling down a road

      https://www.washingtonpost.com... [washingtonpost.com]

    • Why wouldn't you want this? It just sums up public information.

      Maybe we could check ours (like getting our FICA score)?

      Because with such a scheme, everyone is automatically a suspect for everything that happens.

      Add in bulk data collection and metadata analysis and your score can go up (accurately or not) without you having to have actually done anything to justify it.

      Live in a poor neighborhood? Point up.
      Family history of prison? Ten points up.
      Support a politician with policies the police don't like? Point up.

      Do you really want the police & feds judging you on something that is going to be, at best, as accurate as a cr

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      The system scours police data, public records, social media, and public Internet data

      None of those are reliable sources of information. The first two are notorious for containing errors that are extremely hard to get corrected, especially police data. The last two are just a joke - how do they even know they have the right Joe Bloggs' Twitter account? Stuff posted on the internet is one of the least reliable sources of information imaginable.

      Imagine being able to destroy someone's life by creating some fake social media profiles that the police then mine to build up a profile of that person

      • by dcw3 ( 649211 )

        "how do they even know they have the right Joe Bloggs'"

        Imagine being one of George Forman's sons...all named George.

    • by dcw3 ( 649211 )

      Because they're wrong. I've done 3 agency checks on myself since '06 when my credit took a hit...long story. The amount of incorrect data is ridiculous, and each agency has different data. That system is so FUBAR it's not funny.

  • but the other 35 don't rate!
  • by rsilvergun ( 571051 ) on Monday January 11, 2016 @06:52PM (#51282485)
    and even I think this stuff is bad ju-ju. The Extra Creditz [youtube.com] youtube blog did a good piece on the Chinese version of this called Sesame Credit.

    For those of you wondering how I can stay pro central gov't, I don't see how you can have a world without one. We're going to have a big military to protect us from other countries with big militaries. If you're going to have a big military then you better have a big, strong civilian gov't to counter balance it or you're just asking for a coup de eta. Besides, what else besides a strong central gov't can possibly stand up to a large multi-national corporation?

    Think of it this way: It's like there's a box of loader firearms out in the open and somebody picked up a bunch of them and starts waving them around demanding things. Are you gonna sit there and do what they say because you might shoot your eye out or are you gonna pick up a gun and defend yourself? Yeah, you might shoot yourself (heck, it's statistically likely) but it's either that or spend the rest of eternity doing what they guy with the gun says. Gov't is that gun. It's a dangerous tool we're all stuck with...
    • A government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take everything you have.
      • which is that it's pretty much inevitable. The question isn't are we going to have a big central gov't, the question is: Are you going to take part in it?
      • A government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take everything you have.

        Because a "government" is really one Dr Evil character who lives in a mountain and eats children. Seriously, have their ever been any cases of a democratic government taking everything you have (because I can't think of a single instance)?

        • Ignore the trolls on slashdot who hate the government. What you said is exactly right. Netflix has a pretty good piece interviewing current and former Presidents (Bush I) NSA and CIA directors. What comes across is that there is not unanimity about surveillance, the WoT or how to run it or even the limits of governmental powers with respect to fighting the WoT. Some disapprove (!) of the killing of US citizen al-Awalaki (sp?) and see it as a slippery slope. Some are nervous about ubiquitous surveillance.

          The

          • The best hedge against that is a stable prosperous nation. The best way to get that is to have a strong central government to act as a counter-force to the unlimited power corporations would otherwise have.

            Thanks for that, I was beginning to think I was going crazy. So many anti-gov nutters in here it's like the UFO/Free energy crowd.

  • Look at how well Facebook, Twitter, Apple Music, and Pandora do at curation to determine which is good and which is bad in the eyes of the beholder, that the devote millions of dollars to these technologies, and note their failure rate is high.

    Now imagine someone's entire quality of life being decimated because of some poorly designed algorithm rushed to meet government accountability standards.

  • Simple app (Score:4, Insightful)

    by PPH ( 736903 ) on Monday January 11, 2016 @07:23PM (#51282745)

    SELECT Name, Address FROM Public WHERE Race = 'Black';

    • SELECT Name, Address FROM Public WHERE Race = 'Black';

      This won't be a very effective system in Africa...

    • SELECT Name, Address FROM Public WHERE Race = 'Black';

      Except where JOB = PRESIDENT maybe

      • by dcw3 ( 649211 )

        SELECT Name, Address FROM Public WHERE Race = 'Black';

        Except where JOB = PRESIDENT maybe

        The president is half white, so he gets a pass.

  • Threat Scoring? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Irate Engineer ( 2814313 ) on Monday January 11, 2016 @07:27PM (#51282761)

    Isn't this a euphemism for profiling? We're just automating stereotypes.

    Threat Score (sum of all that apply):

    Dark Skin +100

    Speaks language other than English or Arabic + 500

    Speaks Arabic +1000

    Wears funny hat or turban +700

    Likes big screen TVs +100

    etc...

    • Isn't this a euphemism for profiling? We're just automating stereotypes.

      Threat Score (sum of all that apply):

      Dark Skin +100

      Speaks language other than English or Arabic + 500

      Speaks Arabic +1000

      Wears funny hat or turban +700

      Likes big screen TVs +100

      etc...

      You forgot to put scores on these:

      Left MS Windows for Linux Mint and never looked back! + 350
      Vote for Bernie in 2016! +10000

      • by moeinvt ( 851793 )

        "Vote for Bernie in 2016! +10000"

        LOL Supporting a guy whose every promise will make the government bigger and more powerful substantially downgrades your threat level.

        If you read the DHS report on right wing extremism, you'll see that people who supported Ron Paul or vote for Libertarian or Constitution Party candidates, those who believe in state sovereignty, display revolutionary war symbols, etc. are singled out as potential "extremists/terrorists". Obviously if you want smaller government, you're a "

        • "Vote for Bernie in 2016! +10000"

          LOL Supporting a guy whose every promise will make the government bigger and more powerful substantially downgrades your threat level.

          If you read the DHS report on right wing extremism, you'll see that people who supported Ron Paul or vote for Libertarian or Constitution Party candidates, those who believe in state sovereignty, display revolutionary war symbols, etc. are singled out as potential "extremists/terrorists". Obviously if you want smaller government, you're a "threat" to government even if your means are entirely peaceful.
          Their report on left wing extremism is shorter and seems almost exclusively focused on the environmental movement, so if you're any sort of environmental activist, that's a ++ on your threat score too.

          It was a joke anyway but I think overall such will depend on which party is in control at the time of the 'threat evaluation'.

  • That the big one. The gov's are be sold ideas that worked so well in East Germany. Updated to sell to Western nations who have very few skilled clandestine officers but have been mastered signals intelligence.
    A lot of nations now use mandatory government ID photo records to look back over everything the gov and private NGO's, other private groups collected on the net.
    Facial recognition: Privacy advocates raise concern over 'creepy' system Government says will enhance national security (2015-09-09)
    http: [abc.net.au]
  • by Gravis Zero ( 934156 ) on Monday January 11, 2016 @07:49PM (#51282935)

    if you are using military counterinsurgency tools and algorithms on the general population, you are just preventing any change that might upset the status quo. the military industrial complex is going to cannibalize the country if shit like this continues.

    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      Well, sounds like it's time for you to leave, then. May I suggest France? I hear the weather is lovely this time of year. Canada is always popular with fleeing Americans. Seeing as you are likely a leftist, you would be much happier in countries that share your extreme political views, such as Venezuela, Bolivia, or Cuba. Bon voyage! Don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out!
  • by DesertNomad ( 885798 ) on Monday January 11, 2016 @10:38PM (#51283795)
    automatic bump-up on the threat score list. Maybe ACs aren't so lame after all?
  • by Anonymous Coward

    There is one aspect of this that's just begging to be misunderstood by authorities that I'd like to preemptively explain to everybody. Once such a scoring system is in place, there will be some value X for which "an innocent person only has 0.1% chance of scoring higher than X" and that X will become a threshold for suspicion, a threshold that authorities think warrants special treatment and going on various lists as a likely terrorist.

    This is analogous to a p-value in statistics. In this case the p-value

    • On the other hand, if somebody is suspicious the police should poke around and get to know things about him or her. The base rate fallacy applies to terrorists, since for statistical purposes they don't exist. However, I'd bet that farmore than one person in a thousand is a criminal of some sort, considering that we have a large number of people in prison, so it's likely that almost all people that score over 99.9% are criminals.

  • by EmperorOfCanada ( 1332175 ) on Tuesday January 12, 2016 @02:30AM (#51284565)
    First is that some people will end up scoring so high that the police will find themselves justified in just going after them then and there. Except that it will be a very slippery slope when they go to the judge and ask for a warrant saying that there is an 89% probability he has guns, 72% probability that he has drugs, 38% probability that there will be evidence of past crimes on his person, 47% that he will have evidence of a crime being planned, and a 24% chance that he will be harbouring a fugitive. The judge will grand the warrant even though not one shred of evidence will be presented.

    The other is that if you use this to arrest a few hundred people in a bad neighbourhood it is in all likelihood that a few really nasty crimes will be discovered. They will be dissolving someone in acid or something gruesome. Except that when any news investigators ask for the records of all the innocent people rounded up, those records will be denied over "privacy issues."

    But I work with ML and the horribly named big data. Often it can make interesting lists that are mostly good. Except that it will do things like suggest whoppers of terrible conclusions. On a list of major customers most likely to leave it will add a minor customer who used our company once. Why?, who knows. So my prediction is that this software will be ever more tuned to simply letting the police do what they really want to do and then be able to point to the software and say, "I was just following the computer's orders." Things like racial profiling, no knock warrants because the computer now labels everyone as basically a terrorist ready for a waco level shootout. I also suspect the police will all know how to game the system. For instance one data column might be how many times the police look the person up in the records. So they will look the person up 20 times and boom that will be enough to get a warrant.

    Take drug dogs. It is part of the dog's training to "signal" when the handler wants them to. Thus any time the police want to search your car they will bring a drug dog and it will "signal" the only way it won't signal is if the handler is busy and wants to get back to his hooker girlfriend who likes dogs. Then the dog will not find anything even if the car is a mobile drug lab actively producing the final product as the dog walks around. The whole time around it is watching its handler for clues as to what to do and where to signal. If the police can create a magic legal system where a dog is used as a judge issuing search warrants, then a computer will be that much easier.
  • Feel free to run the scoring system against your own employees, often referred to as 'Law Enforcement Officers' without intentional irony.

  • This is a business opportunity!

    Just start another "Service Agency" with a toll-free number website and profligate the airwaves with radio and TV ads with promises to lower your "Threat Score"!

    You'll rake in the big bucks!

10 to the minus 6th power mouthwashes = 1 Microscope

Working...