November 9, 2007

LA Police mapping Muslims

Filed under: Surveillance, Terror — ubikcan @ 3:31 pm

What’s interesting about this story (which was sent to me by multiple sources and now I see it at HuffPo) is not how new this is, but how something that has been done for quite a while now is receiving attention. Nearly a 100 comments at LA Times, nearly twice that at HuffPo. Must be the Muslims.

Did you know the US Department of Justice has a crime mapping center? That it publishes manuals and provides software on geographic profiling? Poor old LAPD. They’re just doing what the USDOJ told them to do.

Did you know there are geographic profiling researchers at universities? Kim Rossmo is generally credited with inventing the term. Here he is.

On Tuesday Wired reported a story that the FBI wanted to get the sales receipts from Bay area grocery stores to see how much falafel had been sold (it was nixed by higher-ups in the FBI). This was supposed to lead them to Iranian terrorists.

Can you connect the dots from geographic profiling to the stories this week?

Let’s not kid ourselves. Profiling and data mining are alive and well in this country. (If you fly internationally various data are collected about you, from your seating preferences to whether you paid by credit card or cash and whether you ordered a halal or kosher meal.)

The problem? False positives which drain manpower and resources because they have to be checked out. (Remember the search for Steve Fossett on the Mechanical Turk? The lead searcher said:

Maj. Cynthia Ryan, who says her e-mail and voicemail boxes were flooded with leads from folks working on the Mechanical Turk. Many times, they mistook search aircraft in the air for Fossett’s plane — even though it’s unlikely Fossett’s plane would have appeared intact. (via apb)

See? All those false positives actually didn’t help.)

People often cite profiling as a necessary evil because it works: criminals do fit profiles. We wouldn’t have Silence of the Lambs otherwise. Sure. The trouble is many many more innocent people also fit profiles. Profiling is the deep sea trawl net of searching. It kills everything in its path.

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1 Comment »

  1. I wonder if they can glean anything from the fact that I drink massive amounts of Dr Pepper?

    Comment by ChenZhen — November 9, 2007 @ 4:01 pm

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