Big Data Surveillance

Newly minted sociologist Sarah Brayne spent two and a half years studying the LAPD as it shifted from traditional methods to what she calls big data surveillance.

This article examines the intersection of two structural developments: the growth of surveillance and the rise of “big data.” Drawing on observations and interviews conducted within the Los Angeles Police Department, I offer an empirical account of how the adoption of big data analytics does—and does not—transform police surveillance practices. I argue that the adoption of big data analytics facilitates amplifications of prior surveillance practices and fundamental transformations in surveillance activities. First, discretionary assessments of risk are supplemented and quantified using risk scores. Second, data are used for predictive, rather than reactive or explanatory, purposes. Third, the proliferation of automatic alert systems makes it possible to systematically surveil an unprecedentedly large number of people. Fourth, the threshold for inclusion in law enforcement databases is lower, now including individuals who have not had direct police contact. Fifth, previously separate data systems are merged, facilitating the spread of surveillance into a wide range of institutions. Based on these findings, I develop a theoretical model of big data surveillance that can be applied to institutional domains beyond the criminal justice system. Finally, I highlight the social consequences of big data surveillance for law and social inequality.

Here’s one bit, not far from what one would see on CSI:

For example, after a series of copper wire thefts in the city, the police found the car involved by drawing a radius in Palantir
around the three places the wire was stolen from, setting up time bounds around the time they knew the thefts occurred at each site, and
querying the system for any license plates captured by ALPRs in all three locations during those time periods.

And another:

I encountered several other examples of
law enforcement using external data originally
collected for non–criminal justice purposes,
including data from repossession and collections
agencies; social media, foreclosure, and
electronic toll pass data; and address and
usage information from utility bills. Respondents
also indicated they were working on
integrating hospital, pay parking lot, and
university camera feeds; rebate data such as
address information from contact lens rebates;
and call data from pizza chains, including
names, addresses, and phone numbers from
Papa Johns and Pizza Hut. In some instances,
it is simply easier for law enforcement to purchase
privately collected data than to rely on
in-house data because there are fewer constitutional
protections, reporting requirements,
and appellate checks on private sector surveillance
and data collection (Pasquale 2014).
Moreover, respondents explained, privately
collected data is sometimes more up-to-date.

Hat tip: Kevin Lewis.



That's a SciFi classic, made into a movie?

Bonus trivia: the LAPD used to pride themselves, during the Gates era, in responding to a call in under 10 minutes. During the Rodney King riots, when I was there, the LAPD showed up at my door and warned me, in response to a neighbor complaint, against 'profiteering' since the then mayor, I think it was the Black-American Bradley, had passed a law saying price increases were temporarily forbidden due to shortages. I was simply warned, and, long story short, I only sold some grocery items at a reasonable price because a neighbor insisted on paying me for some goods. I was making enough money then and now that I did not need the money. But a jealous neighbor saw money changing hands and phoned in. LOL an economic crime in the USA just like in the Soviet Union.

The use of the term "Black-American" here makes you sound like an odd alt-righter.

Thanks Ben but a true alt-righter would use the N-word. Surely African-American sounds contrived, since not all Negroes come from Africa.

I'm reminded of another movie, "Go Tell the Spartans" where a few US soldiers were supposed to occupy and fortify an abandoned hamlet. It was quiet boring work in a backwater -- until the analysts' computer programs at headquarters started spitting out highly elevated risk of a Viet Cong attack at that exact location. The local commander thought that the computer prediction was crazy, but duly put his men on notice and sure enough on successive nights ever growing waves of Viet Cong attacked the hamlet.

A fictional battle, but inspired by an actual one although I don't know if the intelligence reports actually happened.

I can't wait to see those techniques applied to indicted politicians, ho, wait..

'it is simply easier for law enforcement to purchase privately collected data'

Yet again, the lede is buried showing how America is transforming itself into the world's first for profit police/surveillance state.

The US certainly picks a curious mix of government privacy laws and corporate data privacy.

And as this shows, that mix gives data surveillance types a path. Anything that can hop through largely unregulated private data is home free.

Sounds like Palantir is making the world better. I'm sure that the social rights "activists" will be up in arms.

I wonder how much of this is just the difficulty of working inside of an approved government system. It's not unusual for the typical solution employed by those who actually do the work be completely outside of the bureaucratically approved tools.

The government typically sucks at software development and govy IT systems are frequently less useful than two tin cans with a string.

It is much cleaner and less foreboding not having dingy rooms full of files with shuffling bureaucrats leafing through pilfered documents in search of something to use as a lever.

This is very interesting on many levels. The copper wire theft example seems brain-dead simple -if this wasn't done before... wow.

And the use of varied/multiple private data sources. A lot to consider.
These posts are the better ones on MR, IMHO.

...but odd that the "copper wire theft example" doesn't mention actually catching/convicting the thief -- it only mentions "... the police found the car involved". Sounds like pretty shaky evidence to convict someone -- probably more than a few innocent people drove around in those three local areas. If that case was indeed solved, old-fashioned police work was probably the primary cause.

Hey, what can go wrong.

Peter Theil, the founder of Palantir, is a Libertarian.

Palantir, Tigerswan, PSS, countless data collectors. The next time a police officer or salesman come to your door you must ask yourself: What do they know about me? How does that information bias the interaction? Is there a way to correct your record? Dangerous territory indeed.

Rand Paul will mention privacy rights sporadically but was curiously absent earlier this year for the vote giving ISPs the right to sell my data without consent.

It all sounds very technical, but I suspect the more common usage is simply to scan the facebook pages of the local vibrant diversity after a crime to see who is posting pictures of themselves with piles of cash and guns.

The crime rate should be falling steadily due to improvemets in surveillance.

Yet, in the 30 biggest cities, the homicide rate increased 29% from 2014 to 2016.

Were there significant improvements in surveillance between 2014 and 2016? I'm thinking no.

Crime rate in the 30 biggest cities doesn't seem to show any dramatic spike from 2014 to 2016. It's a steady drop with a flattening out as we approach the present.

Murders in the 30 biggest cities is below:

However as you should always do with percentages, check your base and check your outlier. The '29%' increase seems to have happened from the rate going from maybe 10 to 12 per 10,000 people. That's still dramatically less than the 90's 'norm' of nearly 30. Chicago seems like a single outlier that caused the blip in the data. City by city most experienced a fall in both crime and murder or only small increases.

Let's think about crime and surveillance. Break crime down by these actors:

1. Career criminals who do multiple crimes.

2. Spontaneous criminal acts by those who just 'break bad'.

3. Rational criminals who assess punishments and odds of capture and act accordingly.

Needless to say there's some overlap with group 3 and groups 1 and 2. What happens with more surveillance? I think #3 will refrain while #1 will get caught resulting in a drop in crime. Once that is done, though, all the variation in crime is essentially going to be caused by variation in the psychological breaking points of random people plus new career criminals and rational ones who know how to work around the surveillance....(note, for example, mugging people on the subway may go down but stealing people's credit card #'s and selling them in bulk to Russian mobsters on the deep web is something that didn't exist two decades ago).

A lot depends on the police, and societal norms in general.

In a corrupt country, this sort of thing will just mean that only police approved crime will take place. I.e. that the mob which corrupts the top cops will have an even greater advantage than they do now.

I'd doubt many US jurisdictions are at that -- but they might get there. And many other jurisdictions around the world are certainly at that point.

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