The term predictive policing system conjures up images of the Steven Spielberg movie Minority Report. In that movie, an precrime unit goes around the city arresting criminals before they have a chance to commit a crime. The fictional system called precog was considered flawless until it was revealed that a high-level member of the police force had tricked the system and sent the department after an innocent precog-officer. Though a system like that is purely fictional, did you know something akin to it may have been tried right here in New Orleans? Here is the secret policing system you probably didn't know about.
Secret Policing System in New Orleans and Why You Didn't Know About It
The Verge recently published an article accusing the City of New Orleans of conducting a secret policing program with Palantir Technologies. This program apparently gathered data on past crimes, gang connections, communications and social media in an effort to predict who would commit a crime and who would become a victim of one. According to the report, the predictive policing program was flown under the radar as a part of the NOLA For Life program, giving Palantir philanthropic status. The Verge report goes on to say that this allowed the program to avoid budget allocations, which made it a secret from the public and city council members.
The city has responded to the report claiming that The Verge did not do all of its research. It says that the city's relationship with Palantir has been in public record—confirmable by a Google search. They also claim that the info gathered by the Palantir system was more of an organizational system to allow authorities access to the records they need faster. It's also being claimed that analysis from the Palantir system was not used for discovery materials for any trials. Even if true, the use of such a system still leaves questions.
Could Palantir's system really be used to predict crime? Could the data it provides be used in court? Will people's right to privacy be violated by such a system? Though predicting when a crime will happen in order to prevent it seems like a science fiction tale, there are organizations working to do just that. Using such technology could not only reduce crime, it could be a violation of the rights of the people. Thankfully, such an experimental system does not seem to be in use here in New Orleans. However, could that change in the near future?
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