Cutting edge data-driven analysis directs Los Angeles patrol officers to likely future crime scenes – but critics worry that decision-making by machine will bring 'tyranny of the algorithm'
The Los Angeles Police Department, like many urban police forces today, is both heavily armed and thoroughly computerised. The Real-Time Analysis and Critical Response Division in downtown LA is its central processor. Rows of crime analysts and technologists sit before a wall covered in video screens stretching more than 10 metres wide. Multiple news broadcasts are playing simultaneously, and a real-time earthquake map is tracking the region’s seismic activity. Half-a-dozen security cameras are focused on the Hollywood sign, the city’s icon.
In Britain and other EU countries, people have the right to see footage of themselves recorded on CCTV cameras. Yet when one university researcher set out to test this, many operators were less than forthcoming
One day in late 2013, Keith Spiller went for a walk around a city in the south of England. Over the course of about an hour and a half, he walked past the town hall, a train station, a stadium, a few banks, a few shopping areas, a museum and a handful of other public places. And, like countless others walking around UK cities and cities around the world, in each of the places he passed he was recorded on CCTV surveillance cameras.
After his walk, however, he did what very few others do: he asked for the footage.