The Risk to Civil Liberties of Fighting Crime With Big Data

 in the New York Times: “…Sharing data, both among the parts of a big police department and between the police and the private sector, “is a force multiplier,” he said.

Companies working with the military and intelligence agencies have long practiced these kinds of techniques, which the companies are bringing to domestic policing, in much the way surplus military gear has beefed upAmerican SWAT teams.

Palantir first built up its business by offering products like maps of social networks of extremist bombers and terrorist money launderers, and figuring out efficient driving routes to avoid improvised explosive devices.

Palantir used similar data-sifting techniques in New Orleans to spot individuals most associated with murders. Law enforcement departments around Salt Lake City used Palantir to allow common access to 40,000 arrest photos, 520,000 case reports and information like highway and airport data — building human maps of suspected criminal networks.

People in the predictive business sometimes compare what they do to controlling the other side’s “OODA loop,” a term first developed by a fighter pilot and military strategist named John Boyd.

OODA stands for “observe, orient, decide, act” and is a means of managing information in battle.

“Whether it’s war or crime, you have to get inside the other side’s decision cycle and control their environment,” said Robert Stasio, a project manager for cyberanalysis at IBM, and a former United States government intelligence official. “Criminals can learn to anticipate what you’re going to do and shift where they’re working, employ more lookouts.”

IBM sells tools that also enable police to become less predictable, for example, by taking different routes into an area identified as a crime hotspot. It has also conducted studies that show changing tastes among online criminals — for example, a move from hacking retailers’ computers to stealing health care data, which can be used to file for federal tax refunds.

But there are worries about what military-type data analysis means for civil liberties, even among the companies that get rich on it.

“It definitely presents challenges to the less sophisticated type of criminal,but it’s creating a lot of what is called ‘Big Brother’s little helpers,’” Mr.Bowman said. For now, he added, much of the data abundance problem is that “most police aren’t very good at this.”…(More)’