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DITC -Listening: Technology and crime control part-2

Peter Grabosky: Of course the various technologies I've just mentioned are not without risk. First among these is that they might be vulnerable to excessive use, or use in circumstances where they are not warranted. Technologies of surveillance, which were the stuff of science fiction not long ago, now pose significant risks to individual privacy.

Recent history is replete with examples of excessive and inappropriate use of many new technologies.
Moreover, 'high-tech' means of restraint could lead to changes in police practice. Easily available technological fixes may tempt one to rely on them to the extent that traditional policing skills become neglected. There is a risk that community relations will be overlooked, and the art of interpersonal communications will be eroded, if not lost.
No less important, the accumulation of various technologies of surveillance and control may impose intolerable constraints on individual privacy and freedom.
Well, what principles can we put forward for the application of technology to crime control in a democratic society?
Despite their downside risks, new technologies should not be dismissed out of hand. You know, every new technology, beginning with the wheel, has been accompanied by inherent risk and/or the possibility of misuse. This is hardly justification for its outright rejection.
What criteria would you demand of technologies for crime control? Try these:
Legality: the technology and its use should be consistent with prevailing standards of human rights;
Cost-effectiveness: the technology should be affordable and offer a fair return on investment;
Technical integrity: the technology should suit the purpose for which it is used, and be safe and maintainable;
Accountability: the use of the technology should be transparent and subject to rigorous oversight.
Of course, the development of new technologies should, to the greatest extent possible, 'engineer out' risks, that is, minimise their potential to inflict collateral damage, and their vulnerability to exploitation by criminals.
You will appreciate that a new technology is only as good as the person or organisation using it. In the end, there is no substitute for careful recruitment, training and supervision of those law enforcement professionals whose responsibility it will be to use new technologies for the ultimate benefit of the community.
What additional principles might govern the introduction of new crime control technologies? It seems to me that first and foremost, the development and use of new technology should be based on thorough consultation. To do less would run the risk of bringing the entire criminal justice system into disrepute.
And we cannot assume that new technologies of crime control will automatically lend themselves to responsible use. Police who use them should be given appropriate training and supervision. Procedures for the use of new instruments should be no less rigorous than those relating to the use of force. Mechanisms of accountability must be as strong as ever. And the public should be the ultimate beneficiaries.

Well then, how much freedom are you willing to trade off in return for personal security?

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