Tag Archives: ACLU

Big Data Surveillance: The Case of Policing

Posted by Douglas Wood, CEO of Case Closed Software – a leader in investigation software  and analytics for law enforcement.
Headquartered here in Central Texas, I recently had an opportunity to have coffee with Dr. Sarah Brayne, Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology at The University of Texas at Austin. Ms. Brayne had just published an interesting article in The American Sociological Review. The article is titled Big Data Surveillance: The Case of Policing.
The article examines the intersection of two emerging developments: the increase in surveillance and the massive exploration of “big data.” Drawing on observations and interviews conducted within the Los Angeles Police Department, Sarah offers an empirical account of how the adoption of big data analytics does—and does not—transform police surveillance practices.
She argues that the adoption of big data analytics facilitates may amplify previous surveillance practices, and outlines the following findings:

  1. Discretionary assessments of risk are supplemented and quantified using risk scores.
  2. Data tends to be used for predictive, rather than reactive or explanatory, purposes. (Here, Crime Tech Weekly would want to differentiate between predictive analytics and investigation analytics)
  3. The proliferation of automatic alert systems makes it possible to systematically surveil an unprecedentedly large number of people.
  4. The threshold for inclusion in law enforcement databases (gang databases, criminal intelligence data, etc) is lower, now including individuals who have not had direct police contact. (Here again, Crime Tech Weekly would point out that adherence to criminal intelligence best practices vastly reduces this likelihood)
  5. Previously separate data systems are merged, facilitating the spread of surveillance into a wide range of institutions.

Based on these findings, Sarah develops a theoretical model of big data surveillance that can be applied to institutional domains beyond the criminal justice system. Finally, she highlights the social consequences of big data surveillance for law and social inequality.
The full PDF report can be downloaded via Sage Publishing by clicking here. Or, if you have general comments or questions and do not wish to download the full version, please feel free to contact us through the form below. Crime Tech Weekly will be happy to weigh in.

Criminal Intelligence Databases: Violations of privacy rights are the exception, not the rule.

privacyThe notion that law enforcement fusion centers regularly violate individuals’ privacy rights as they capture intelligence on gangs, terrorist activities, organized crime, and other threats to public safety is simply not true. That, according to a study published in the Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology.
The paper, “Law Enforcement Fusion Centers: Cultivating an Information Sharing Environment while Safeguarding Privacy,” was authored by Jeremy Carter, an assistant professor of  Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. His article carefully addresses the privacy-rights issue of criminal intelligence gathering, among others.
fusion_centers_mapThere are approximately 80 fusion centers in the United States. They were created in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The attacks exposed the requirement for greater information sharing and improved intelligence capabilities at all law enforcement levels.  According to the article’s author, the idea was to have the key pieces of data funneled into fusion centers so that highly trained analysts could stay atop of threats and correspond with local law enforcement agencies on these potential threats.
Designed with a view to enhance information-sharing among agencies, fusion centers act as ‘hubs’ of data and intelligence on gang activities, terrorist cells, organized crime, and other public safety threats. Vast amounts have data has been collected, and concerns about individual privacy and civil rights have ensued. The very legitimacy of these fusion centers has been called into question.
bigbrotherThe notion that law enforcement fusion centers represent ‘Big Brother’, and that data is being stored and disseminated about people irrespective of whether they are suspected of criminal activity is simply wrong, according to Professor Carter.
Still, concerns remain about who can access the data, and for what purpose. However, a survey of fusion centers across the country suggests that they take appropriate steps to safeguard individual privacy via something called Federal Regulatory Code CFR 28 Part 23.
28-cfr-part-23“Fusion centers are following the federal regulatory code, 28 CFR Part 23, that is the legal standard for collecting information,” Carter said. “That code says you have to establish a criminal predicate, basically probable cause, to keep information on identifiable individuals.”
Additionally, the majority of the fusion centers have implemented strong controls that provide built-in safeguards that protect the privacy of individuals. The fusion centers are also regularly audited to ensure that only the correct type of data is gathered, and that is stored and disseminated in a need-to-know basis.
black versionCrime Tech Solutions develops and markets a suite of crime fighting software including IntelNexus™, a criminal intelligence database system that complies with the above mentioned code 28 CFR Part 23. The company also provides software for investigation case management, advanced crime analytics, and link/social network analysis.