Algorithms use in the Criminal Justice System

25 Jun '19

A new report, released by the Technology and Law Public Policy Commission at the beginning of June, examines the challenges in the use of algorithms and suggests key recommendations.

Algorithms are becoming a way of life. Sitting in the background of the systems we use, they increasingly affect the information we see and the decisions we make.  Purchasing decisions, website personalisation, and suggestions and marketing on social networking sites are all driven by algorithms which harness our data to second guess our next move and make like easier for us.

Facebook now has facial recognition software which you can use to make it easy for you to automatically tag your friends. But think about that in the context of the justice system. Algorithms are already being used for facial recognition, DNA profiling, predictive crime mapping, and mobile data extraction.

Is it sufficient to rely on algorithms when the stakes are high?

As the commission notes “an uncritical reliance on technology could lead to wrong decisions that threaten human rights and undermine public trust in the justice system”.

The Technology and Law Commission were created to explore the issue and held public evidence sessions and received input from expert contributors as well as other written submissions.

There is an excellent Executive Summary which highlights the key challenges and their recommendations. But you can also access the full report on the Law Society website.

It will be interesting to see how this work is taken forward.