"Police across the country regularly use social media data to keep tabs on citizens."

The problem in using social media to fight crime


Mon, Apr 20th, 2015 11:00 by capnasty NEWS

Although police use social media to monitor the activities of gang members, The Atlantic notes that policing through it "fails to capture the complexity of human relationships," with innocent people getting stuck in a dragnet of assumed guilt based solely on association.

Despite what techno-evangelists might wish, not all social relationships can be described using computational logic. The problem is structural and epistemological. Like all computer programs, databases are ultimately based on binary logic. If you want shades of meaning, you have to explicitly build that capability into your system. And building nuance is far harder than it seems.

On Facebook, there are only two options for a post: either you click the like button, or you don’t click the like button. There’s no field for someone like Jelani Henry to indicate “I clicked the like button on this post so I wouldn’t get harassed on my way to school.” A like is simply a number used as a flag, true (1) or false (0). Humans are the ones who invest likes with context and meaning. The computer only displays the results of its computation.



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