The alchemy of Big Data is being used today to declrare pre-criminals

Instructing National Police officers 

Chicago PD’s Big Data: using pseudoscience to justify racial profiling
[Via Boing Boing]

The Chicago Police Department has ramped up the use of its “predictive analysis” system to identify people it believes are likely to commit crimes. These people, who are placed on a “heat list,” are visited by police officers who tell them that they are considered pre-criminals by CPD, and are warned that if they do commit any crimes, they are likely to be caught.

The CPD defends the practice, and its technical champion, Miles Wernick from the Illinois Institute of Technology, characterizes it as a neutral, data-driven system for preventing crime in a city that has struggled with street violence and other forms of crime. Wernick’s approach involves seeking through the data for “abnormal” patterns that correlate with crime. He compares it with epidemiological approaches, stating that people whose social networks have violence within them are also likely to commit violence.

The CPD refuses to share the names of the people on its secret watchlist, nor will it disclose the algorithm that put it there.

This is a terrible way of running a criminal justice system.


The difference between alchemy and science is openness and transparency. This process has none and only serves to enhance confirmation biases while making who your friends are determine whether you are a pre-criminal or not.

So, will the penalty be greater for a 15 year old who shoplifts if they were on the pre-criminal list than a child who was not? Bet it will be.

Does this make you feel safer?

3 thoughts on “The alchemy of Big Data is being used today to declrare pre-criminals

  1. No more Constitution in Chicago? Has there ever been? Where is activist Obama, the Constitutional scholar?

    1. And what specific Constitutional rights are being violated? That is what is so deadly about this.It is a IGO program determined to find the people it has already determined to find. It simply tried to place a scicen motif on something that has always happened – police target innocent people. Just about everywhere.

  2. Unreasonable search. Innocent until PROVEN guilty. If the cops in NY can’t stop and frisk, how can the cops in Chicago prejudge?

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