Angry Jesus writes:
"The Chicago Police Department is mis-applying epidemiological science (the study of entire populations) to target individuals in a real-life version of Minority Report. They have decided that it is a good idea to put people on a secret list based on a Big Data analysis of their social networks. But don't worry, it isn't racist or abusive because, Science!"
It doesn't appear that race is used as one of the inputs. That's not 100% proof that something is *not* racist, other metrics could be used as sufficiently accurate proxies, but nothing else in the article makes me think it's racist either.
It is however troubling to me whenever the government starts drawing up lists of people for special attention, scrutiny, or restriction. People WILL end up on that list who should not be there, and there will be little or no oversight to get them off it. They'll never know about their presence on these lists, and would have no recourse to getting themselves taken off even if they did.
Using data to predict crimes is actually a good idea. Getting down to the resolution level of individual citizens might even be an effective feature of such a sufficiently sophisticated system--if you're willing to give up what it costs to implement it: a free society.
If we want to preserve civil society, what's left of it, we must restrain ourselves from using all the possible tools that are available. The march of surveillance and profiling technology progresses in step with the escalation of the physical tools carried by police. As they now arm themselves with automatic weapons and armored vehicles, so too are they being equipped with cell-phone intercepting vans, secret computer generated lists, and automated surveillance and facial ID. It's the left boot, right boot, stride of the advancing police state.
Police have generally not proven themselves competent and restrained enough to deserve their current arsenal. I don't want them given anything new to abuse.
It doesn't appear that race is used as one of the inputs. That's not 100% proof that something is *not* racist,
Yes, it is. That is the definition of racism. Dictionary FTW.
You are technically correct, but only in a meaningless, facile way. It's possible to use other criteria as a proxy for creating a racist policy. For example, if I want to disenfranchise black people, I can look up census data on which neighborhoods in a city are poorest and vote Democrat, and then direct the most onerous and stifling voter suppression tactics there. That'll work just fine for such purposes. Yes, you'll catch a lot of people who aren't black too, and a lot of blacks won't be targeted, but when you only need statistical significance it's a perfectly useful tactic--and a racist one, despite never feeding race directly into the equation.
Which tallies exactly with what I said in my original comment. I don't believe this system is racist, but the mere absence of race as data being fed into it is not positive proof that it is not.
It's possible to use other criteria as a proxy for creating a racist policy. For example, if I want to disenfranchise black people, I can look up census data on which neighborhoods in a city are poorest and vote Democrat, and then direct the most onerous and stifling voter suppression tactics there.
It doesn't even have to be deliberate. In fact, I don't think it is useful to assume deliberate racism in the creation of these lists. The way modern racism frequently works (at least in the US where there is major social stigma associated with being racist) is that subconscious biases come into play. Practically no one says, "black people are criminals" but they do say things like "people who live in bad neighborhoods are criminals" and "if you live in a bad neighborhood that's your choice" because they've never lived in a bad neighborhood themselves.
I think that racism in modern america is more a case of ignorance about the lives of others than it is about deliberately punitive actions. Not to trivialize it, but it is sort of an "accidental racism."
Yes, it absolutely does have to be deliberate. If no human or mechanical mind has discriminated based on race, there is no racism. Period.
"In its majestic equality, the law forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets, and steal loaves of bread." -- Anatole France