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Artificial Intelligence Is Already Sending People to Jail — and Getting It Wrong

Elias Marat

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As machine-learning algorithms, big data methods and artificial intelligence are increasingly used in the toolkit of U.S. law enforcement agencies, many are worrying that the existing biases of the criminal justice system are simply being automated – and deepened.

Police departments are increasingly relying on predictive algorithms to figure out where to deploy their forces by blanketing cities with a mesh of human-based and computerized surveillance technology including, but not limited to, data-mining, facial recognition, and predictive policing programs.

This comes despite the flaw in such tools. Facial recognition software have often held a bias toward darker-skinned individuals, including mistaking members of Congress for criminal suspects. In essence, racial profiling has become automated while allowing law enforcement agencies to claim that the computers are race-neutral tools.

In Los Angeles County, for example, all 47 police agencies are plugged into a biometrics system maintained by NEC Corporation of America, which claims to have the capacity to incorporate 15 million subjects into its facial recognition platform – giving a powerful boost to a wide-ranging suite of technology including closed-circuit cameras, StingRay phone trackers, and earthquake prediction software that identifies alleged crime “hot spots” based on historic data.

And now, courtrooms are increasingly relying on criminal risk assessment algorithms, according to a new report from MIT Technology Review.

Under the guise of trimming the number of prisoners while processing defendants efficiently, prisoners are being assigned recidivism scores that estimate to what extent it is likely that a perpetrator may or may not reoffend.

As author Karen Hao explains:

“A judge then factors that score into a myriad of decisions that can determine what type of rehabilitation services particular defendants should receive, whether they should be held in jail before trial, and how severe their sentences should be. A low score paves the way for a kinder fate. A high score does precisely the opposite.

The logic for using such algorithmic tools is that if you can accurately predict criminal behavior, you can allocate resources accordingly, whether for rehabilitation or for prison sentences. In theory, it also reduces any bias influencing the process, because judges are making decisions on the basis of data-driven recommendations and not their gut.

You may have already spotted the problem. Modern-day risk assessment tools are often driven by algorithms trained on historical crime data.”

The problem is that by relying on historical crime data, the communities that have been historically targeted by law enforcement – such as low-income and national, ethnic or religious minorities – are at risk of receiving higher recidivism scores. Hao continues:

“So if you feed it historical crime data, it will pick out the patterns associated with crime. But those patterns are statistical correlations—nowhere near the same as causations. If an algorithm found, for example, that low income was correlated with high recidivism, it would leave you none the wiser about whether low income actually caused crime. But this is precisely what risk assessment tools do: they turn correlative insights into causal scoring mechanisms.”

“As a result, the algorithm could amplify and perpetuate embedded biases and generate even more bias-tainted data to feed a vicious cycle,” Hao adds, noting that the proprietary nature of risk assessment algorithms renders any sort of accountability impossible.

In notes from the Data for Black Lives conference held earlier this month, Law for Black Lives executive director Marbre Stahly-Butts lays out the precise danger of new data-driven approaches to criminal justice:

“Data-driven risk assessment is a way to sanitize and legitimize oppressive systems … Demands of the community to change the system are being ‘met’ with an increased use of technology which actually lead to more over-surveillance of minority communities.”

In an age when the data industry has become entirely financialized, Big Data-driven policing has become a lucrative business. And while the economic gulf widens between poor communities and the one percent, with schools being defunded and health care growing less accessible for the poor, the surveillance industry and private jail industry are seeing a windfall of taxpayer dollars.

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WATCH: Video Shows Bullets Fly as Armored Car Crew Narrowly Escapes Brutal Heist

Elias Marat

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Dramatic dash cam footage from Pretoria, South Africa, shows the moment that the crew of an armored car narrowly escaped an attempt by armed robes to stage a heist.

The shocking video shows a pair of private security officers transporting cash in a bulletproof Toyota truck on April 22 before they suddenly come under attack by armed assailants.

For the first minute of the roughly three-minute-long video, the security guards can be seen routinely driving down a highway.

The vehicle then comes under fire as bullets can be heard slamming into the driver side of the car, with the window by the driver’s side shattering.

The driver, who maintains his calm and composure during the attack, manages to escape amid the traffic. He also seems to slam into one of the two vehicles belonging to the attackers.

“They’re going to shoot. They’re going to f**king shoot,” the driver then says, urging his colleague to pull out the rifle and prepare to defend their lives.

As gunshots continue to ring out, the two drive silently as the tension builds. The driver then shouts to his colleague: “Phone Robbie, phone Josh! Ask them where they are.”

As the video ends, the driver can be seen stopping the vehicle and grabbing his colleague’s rifle. At that point, it becomes clear that the assailants have realized that their attack was futile they had already fled the scene.

The suspects fired several shots at the [Cash-In-Transit] vehicle in an attempt to stop it during a high-speed chase,” said police spokesperson Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo , reports News24. 

“The driver of the CIT vehicle managed to evade the robbers for a while but later stopped in wait for the robbers,” Naidoo added. “The robbers fled without taking any money. No arrests have yet been made.”

Online users have praised the steel nerves of the armored car’s crew in navigating what could have been a deadly attack.

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After Strong Backlash, NYPD Kicks Robotic Dog “Spot” to the Curb

Kenny Stancil

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The New York City Police Department decided this week to stop leasing a robotic dog from Boston Dynamics following a sustained outcry from residents and lawmakers, who denounced the use of the high-tech, four-legged device in low-income neighborhoods as a misallocation of public resources and violation of civil liberties.

When the NYPD acquired the K-9 machine last August, officials portrayed “Digidog”—the department’s name for the camera-equipped, 70-pound robot—as “a futuristic tool that could go places that were too dangerous to send officers,” the New York Times reported earlier this week.

Inspector Frank Digiacomo of the department’s Technical Assistance Response Unit said in a television interview in December: “This dog is going to save lives. It’s going to protect people. It’s going to protect officers.”

Instead—thanks to strong backlash from critics, including people who live in the Bronx apartment complex and the Manhattan public housing building where the robotic dog was deployed in recent weeks—the department is returning “Spot,” as Boston Dynamics calls the device, months earlier than expected.

According to the Times:

In response to a subpoena from City Councilman Ben Kallos and Council Speaker Corey Johnson requesting records related to the device, police officials said that a contract worth roughly $94,000 to lease the robotic dog from its maker, Boston Dynamics, had been terminated on April 22.

John Miller, the police department’s deputy commissioner for intelligence and counterterrorism, confirmed on Wednesday that the contract had been canceled and that the dog had been returned to Boston Dynamics or would be soon.

Miller told the Times that the police had initially planned to continue testing the K-9 machine’s capabilities until August, when the lease had been scheduled to end.

The robotic dog came under increased scrutiny in February, after it was deployed in response to a home invasion at a Bronx apartment building, as Common Dreams reported at the time.

“Robotic surveillance ground drones are being deployed for testing on low-income communities of color with under-resourced schools,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) tweeted in response. “Please ask yourself: when was the last time you saw next-generation, world class technology for education, healthcare, housing, etc. consistently prioritized for underserved communities like this?” 

And earlier this month, as Common Dreams reported, footage of the robotic dog walking through a Manhattan public housing building went viral, sparking additional outrage and prompting a city council investigation.

“Why the hell do we need robot police dogs?” Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) asked at the time. 

While there are “people living in poverty, struggling to put food on the table, keep a roof over their head, take care of their kids, afford child care—all this going on, and now we got damn robot police dogs walking down the street,” Bowman lamented.

Bill Neidhardt, a spokesperson for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who urged the police department to reconsider its use of the robot following objections from residents and lawmakers, said he was “glad the Digidog was put down.”

“It’s creepy, alienating, and sends the wrong message to New Yorkers,” Neidhardt said.

Republished from CommonDreams.org under Creative Commons

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Bizarre

Senate Intelligence Leaders Say Mystery “Sonic Weapon” Attacks on U.S. Officials Increasing

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After it was revealed Thursday that US intelligence is investigating at least two potential “directed energy” sonic attacks on White House personnel – one of which is alleged to have happened just off White House grounds – the US Senate Intelligence Committee weighed in on Friday, saying such mysterious incidents appear to be happening with greater frequency worldwide.

Senators Mark Warner (D) and Marco Rubio (R) agreed that such microwave energy attacks have gone on for “nearly five years” and have targeted “US government personnel in Havana, Cuba and elsewhere around the world.” In a joint statement the two ranking members said, “This pattern of attacking our fellow citizens serving our government appears to be increasing. The Senate Intelligence Committee intends to get to the bottom of this,” according to Reuters. 

As with the late 2016 into 2017 ‘Havana Syndrome’ attacks in which some 50 diplomatic personnel reported experiencing strange symptoms from vomiting to concussions to extreme nausea to chronic headaches, which was believed the result of some kind of undetected ‘directed energy’ weapon, the most recent incidents saw media reports speculate that Russia or China might be behind them. 

It was starting last week that the mysterious incidents returned to national media spotlight after defense officials said they believe Russia is likely behind microwave energy weapon attacks on US troops in northeast Syria. Apparently some US troops occupying the country began reporting”flu-like symptoms” which caused the DoD to investigate possible linkage to microwave or directed energy weapons on the battlefield of Syria. Politico reported that “officials identified Russia as a likely culprit, according to two people with direct knowledge of the matter.”

Despite instances of strange symptoms and even head injuries experienced by diplomatic personnel or troops abroad, no “energy weapon” has ever been found or uncovered that’s believed to have caused any of these alleged attacks. Most often US personnel report the symptoms enough time after the alleged attack took place for the “plot” and culprit to remain undetected. Naturally this has resulted in immense skepticism and pushback.

One deeply critical response to all the reporting late this week quipped: “Another day, another mostly anonymously sourced story about unidentified assailants supposedly assaulting U.S. government employees around the globe. This time, according to CNN, federal agencies are looking into something closer to home: symptoms suffered by a White House employee in Virginia and National Security Council staffer near the south lawn of the White House.”

“Although a government report later concluded the most likely cause was instead some sort of ‘directed, pulsed radiofrequency energy’ (i.e. a microwave weapon), that conclusion was primarily based on a lack of evidence for other causes and received strong pushback from many others in the scientific community.”

The commentary in Gizmodo pointed out further that “No hard evidence of any kind for the technology has ever been publicly presented by the US government. Reports citing government officials who suspect Russian intelligence to be involved have largely been anonymous and buoyed primarily by rumors the Russian government may have resumed Soviet-era research into experimental weapons.”

Republished from ZeroHedge.com with permission

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