Fighting Crime with Data: An Ethical Dilemma

Henry Rodrigues our consultant managing the role
Posting date: 11/15/2018 9:27 AM
Can you be guilty of a crime you’ve yet to commit? That’s the premise of Steven Spielberg’s 2002 sci-fi thriller ‘Minority Report’. But could it actually be closer to reality than you think.  

As technology has advanced, law enforcement has had to adapt. With criminals utilising increasingly sophisticated methods to achieve their goals, our police forces have had to continuously evolve their approach in order to keep up.  

New digital advances have refined crime-solving techniques to the point where they can even predict the likelihood of a specific crime occurring. But with our personal data at stake, where do we draw the line between privacy and public safety? 


Caught on Camera  


The digital transformation has led to many breakthroughs over the past few decades, originating with fingerprint analysis, through to the advanced Machine Learning models now used to tackle Fraud and analyse Credit Risk.  

With an estimated one camera per every 14 individuals in the UK, CCTV coverage is particularly dense. And, with the introduction of AI technologies, their use in solving crimes is likely to increase even further.  

IC Realtime’s Ella uses Computer Vision to analyse what is happening within a video. With the ability to recognise thousands of natural language queries, Ella can let users search footage for exactly what they’re after; from specific vehicles, to clothes of a certain colour. With only the quality of CCTV cameras holding it back, we’re likely to see technology like this become mainstream in the near future.  

Some more widespread technologies, however, are already playing their part in solving crimes. Detectives are currently seeking audio recordings from an Amazon Echo thought to be active during an alleged murder. However, as with previous requests for encrypted phone data, debate continues around what duty tech companies have to their customer’s privacy. 


Hotspots and Hunches


Whilst Big Data has been used to help solve crime for a while, we’ve only seen it begin to play a preventive role over the past few years. By using Predictive Analytics tools such as HunchLab to counter crime, law enforcement services can: 

  • Direct resources to crime hotspots where they are most needed. 
  • Produce statistical evidence that can be shared with local and national-level politicians to help inform and shape policy.  
  • Make informed requests for additional funding where necessary.  

Research has shown that, in the UK, these tools have been able to predict crime around ten times more accurately than the police.  

However, above and beyond the geographical and socioeconomic trends that define these predictions, advances in AI have progressed things even further.  

Often, after a mass shooting, it is found that the perpetrators had spoken about their planned attack on social media. The size of the social landscape is far too big for authorities to monitor everyone, and often just scanning for keywords can be misleading. However, IBM’s Watson can understand the sentiment of a post. This huge leap forward could be the answer to the sincere, and fair, policing of social media that we’ve yet to see.


Man vs Machine 


Whilst our social media posts may be in the public domain, the question remains about how much of our data are we willing to share in the name of public safety.  

There is no doubt that advances in technology have left us vulnerable to new types of crime, from major data breaches, to new ways of cheating the taxman. So, there is an argument to be had that we need to surrender some privacy in order to protect ourselves as well as others. But who do we trust with that data? 

Humans are all susceptible to bias and AI inherits the biases of its creators. Take a program like Boulder, a Santa-esque prototype that analyses the behaviour of people in banks, determining who is ‘good’ and who is ‘bad’. Whilst it can learn signs of what to look for, it’s also making decisions based around how it’s been taught ‘bad’ people might look or act. As such, is it any more trustworthy than an experienced security guard? 

If we ignore human bias, do we trust emotionless machines to make truly informed decisions? A study that applied Machine Learning to cases of bail found that the technology’s recommendations would have resulted in 50% less reoffenders than the original judges’ decisions. However, whilst the evidence suggests that this may be the way forward, it is unlikely that society will accept such an important, life-changing decision being made by a machine alone. 

There is no black and white when it comes to how we use data to prevent and solve crime. As a society, we are continuously pushing the boundaries and determining how much technology should impact the way we govern ourselves. If you can balance ethics with the evolution of technology, we may have a role for you.  

Take a look at our latest roles or contact one of our expert consultants to find out how we can help you. 

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Using Data & Analytics To Plan Your Perfect Ski Trip

Using Data & Analytics To Plan Your Perfect Ski Trip

The Ski season may be drawing to a close, but it’s never too early to start planning for next year. Born and raised in the mountains of Austria, I have been skiing all of my life. For me, it’s about freedom, enjoying the views and forgetting about everything else.  But, since I’ve stepped into the world of Data & Analytics, I started to asked myself “what can I learn from my work that I can apply to my skiing”? After having a look around, I began to discover ways in which Data could support my passion. I’ve pulled together some of the most interesting things I’ve discovered and created this handy guide to help you prepare for your next trip. Here’s how you can use data to create the perfect ski trip.  Follow the snow Anyone who has skied before knows about the uncertainty before a trip. Will there be enough snow? Will the weather be good? Which resort is the most suited to my ability? Fortunately, somebody has already pulled this information together for you. Two "web spiders" were built via Scrapy, a Python framework used for data extraction, the first of which extracted ski resort data. The second spider, on the other hand, extracted daily snowfall data for each resort (2009 - present). After collecting Data from more than 600 ski resorts and spitting it into 7 main regions, the spiders were able to form a conclusion. The framework then pulled out key metrics, including the difficulty of runs, meaning that skiers are now able to decide which resort is most suitable for their ability.  As for the weather, onthesnow.com has recorded snowfall data from all major resorts, every year since 2009. We all know that good snow makes any trip better, so the collected data here will help skiers ensure they are prepared for the right weather, or even plan their trip around where the snow will be best.  Optimise your skis Ski manufacturing is a refined and complicated process, with each ski requiring many different materials to be built. Unfortunately, this often results in the best skis running out quickly as supply outspeeds demand.  To help speed up and improve the process, companies are implementing technologies like IBM Cognos* that monitor entire supply chains so that no matter how much demand increases, they have the materials to meet it.   Additionally, since the majority of companies have become more data-driven, production time has been reduced by weeks. Predictions for future demand has also become 50% more accurate, resulting in a drop of 30% idle time on production lines. Skip the Queue Tired of queuing for the ski lift? There’s good news. As they begin to make the most of data, ski resorts are introducing RFID* (Radio Frequency Identification) systems. These involve visitors purchasing cards with RFID chips included, allowing them to skip queues at the lifts as there is no need to check for fake passes. The data can then be utilised for gamification platforms to turn a skier’s time on the slopes into an interactive experience.  The shift towards Big Data not only has advantages for the visitors, but the management are also benefiting. In the past, it has been difficult to analyse skier’s data. Now, with automated and proper data management, the numbers can be crunched seamlessly and marketing campaigns can be directed at how people actually choose to ski.   Carve a Better Technique Skiing isn’t always easy, especially if you haven’t grown up with it. Usually, ski instructors are the solution but, in the age of Data & Analytics, there are other solutions. Jamie Grant and co-founder Pruthvikar Reddy have created an app called Carv 2.0, which allows you to be your own teacher. It works by using a robust insert that fits between the shell of your ski boots and the liner. It then gathers data from 48 pressure sensitive pads, and nine motion sensors.  This data is fed to a connected match-box size tracker unit, sitting on the back of your boots, before being relayed via Bluetooth to the Carv App on your phone. Carv can then measure your speed, acceleration and ski orientation a staggering 300 times a second.  Thanks to a complex set of algorithms this data is then converted into an easy to follow graphic display on your phone’s screen as well as verbal feedback from Carvella. The accuracy of this real-time data could make it a better instructor than any individual person.  Data & Analytics are helping streamline every part of our lives. Whilst the above can’t guarantee a perfect ski trip, they can help us minimise risks and optimize our performance and experience.  If you’re able to use data to improve day-to-day living, we may have a role for you. Take a look at our latest opportunities or get in touch with our expert consultants.  

From Idea to Impact: How Charities Use Data

From Idea to Impact: How Charities Use Data

It’s that time of year again. As the festive season draws near and we pull together wish lists, many of us also begin to think about how we can give back. Given that the UK spent over £7 billion this Black Friday and Cyber Monday weekend, it’s not surprising that the idea of Giving Tuesday is becoming more and more popular.  But with 160,000 registered charities in the UK alone, institutions are turning to data to find new ways to stand out and make a greater impact.  Far from just running quarterly reports, charities are now utilising the insights they gain from data to inform their strategies, improve their services and plan for the future.  IDEAS Given that not every charity is lucky enough to go viral with an Ice Bucket Challenge style video, there is a need to find other ways to stand out in such a crowded market. As such, many are looking to the data they have collected to help create a strategy. Macmillan Cancer Support, one the UK’s biggest charities, wanted to see more success from one of their main fundraisers, ‘The World’s Biggest Coffee Morning’. The event, which sees volunteers hold coffee and cake-fuelled gatherings across the country was revolutionised by data. By engaging with their database and researching what motivated fundraisers, they refocused their marketing around how the occasion could create an opportunity for people to meet up and chat, such as swapping ‘send for your free fundraising pack’ for ‘order your free coffee morning kit’. Whilst these amends may seem superficial, they had a major impact increasing funds raised from £15m to £20m.  Some brands have taken this idea even further, using Data & Analytics tools to engage with potential donors. Homelessness charity Cyrenians’ data told them that there were a number of misconceptions about rough sleepers, including 15% of people believing that they were homeless by choice. To counter this they created an AI chatbot, named Alex, that allowed users to ask questions they may not have been comfortable asking a real person.  Another charity using data tools to counter common misconceptions is Dyslexia Association. Their Moment of Dyslexia campaign saw them utilise facial recognition technology; the longer a person looked at their digital poster, the more jumbled up the words and letters became. By harnessing both insights and the technology made possible by data, they were able to offer an insight into what dyslexia is like for people who previously didn’t understand.  INDIVIDUALS A big issue facing a number of charities is trust. Following a series of recent scandals, the public are more sceptical than ever of how charities are run, and their use of data is no exception. This ‘trust deficit’ has resulted in vast amount of potential donors staying away, with recent research highlighting that only 11% of people are willing to share their data with a charity, even if it means a better service.  Whilst charities with effective Data Governance are able to use their vast amount of data to enhance those business, those who mismanage it are likely to suffer. Following a cyber-attack that exposed the data of over 400,000 donors, the British and Foreign Bible Society were fined £100,000. As hackers were able to enter the network by exploiting a weak password, this serves as a timely reminder that our data needs not only to be clean, but secure.  Financial implications aside, improper data usage can also do irreversible damage to a charity’s reputation. St Mungo’s has faced criticism for passing information about migrant homeless people to the Home Office, putting them at risk of deportation. Whilst they were cleared of any wrongdoing by the ICO, this controversial use of data has had a negative impact on the charity’s image. With a decline in the number of people donating to charity overall, anything that can put people off further is bad news.  IMPACT Whilst there is more demand than ever for charities to share their impact data, there is also more opportunity. With Lord Gus O’Donnell urging charities to make data an ‘organisation-wide priority’, many are going beyond publishing annual reports and fully embracing a culture shift. Youth charity Keyfund have been able to justify how the spend their funds based on their impact data. Having heard concerns from fundraisers regarding whether their leisure projects were effective they looked at the data they had gathered from the 6,000 young people they were helping. What they found was that not only were their leisure projects effective, they had an even more positive impact than their alternatives, particularly for those from the most deprived area. This allowed them to continue to support these programs and even increase funding where necessary. Going one step further are Street League, a charity that use sports programmes to tackle youth unemployment. Rather than share their impact data in quarterly, or even annual, reports they moved to real-time reporting. Interested parties can visit an ‘Online Impact Dashboard’ and see up-to-the-minute data about how the charity’s work is impacting the lives of the people it is trying to help. This not only allows for the most relevant data to be used strategically, but also supports the business holistically, gaining donor both attention and trust. To stand out in the charity sector institutions need to take advantage of data. Not only can this be used to generate campaigns and streamline services but, when used securely and transparently, it can help rebuild trust and offer a competitive edge.  If you want to make the world a better place by harnessing and analysing data, we may have a role for you. Take a look at our latest opportunities or get in touch with one of our expert consultants to see how we can help you. 

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