Data & Civil Rights: Criminal Justice Primer

Data & Civil Rights Conference, October 2014

7 Pages Posted: 24 Dec 2014

See all articles by Alex Rosenblat

Alex Rosenblat

Data & Society Research Institute

Kate Wikelius

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

Danah Boyd

Data & Society Research Institute; Microsoft Research

Seeta Peña Gangadharan

New America Foundation - Open Technology Institute

Corrine Yu

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

Date Written: October 30, 2014

Abstract

There has been some discussion of how “big data” can be used to remedy inequalities in the criminal justice system; civil rights advocates recognize potential benefits but remained fundamentally concerned that data-oriented approaches are being designed and applied in ways that also disproportionately harms those who are already marginalized by criminal justice processes. Like any other powerful tool of governance, data mining can empower or disempower groups. The values that go into an algorithm, and the metrics it optimizes for, are baked into its design. Data could be used to identify discrimination in current practices, or to predict where certain combinations of data points are likely to lead to an erroneous conviction. When algorithms are designed to improve how law enforcement regimes are deployed, the question that data analytics raises is, which efficiencies are we optimizing for? Who are the stakeholders, and where do they stand to gain or lose? How do these applications intersect with core civil rights concerns? Where can we use big data techniques to improve the structural conditions criminal justice system that lead to disparate impacts on marginalized communities? How do we measure that impact, and the factors that lead to it?

Keywords: predictive policing, data mining, data analytics, criminal justice, disparate impact, sentencing algorithms, big data

Suggested Citation

Rosenblat, Alex and Wikelius, Kate and Boyd, Danah and Gangadharan, Seeta Peña and Yu, Corrine, Data & Civil Rights: Criminal Justice Primer (October 30, 2014). Data & Civil Rights Conference, October 2014. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2542262 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2542262

Alex Rosenblat

Data & Society Research Institute ( email )

36 West 20th Street
New York,, NY
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.datasociety.net

Kate Wikelius

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights ( email )

Danah Boyd (Contact Author)

Data & Society Research Institute ( email )

36 West 20th Street
11th Floor
New York,, NY 10011
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.datasociety.net

Microsoft Research ( email )

One Memorial Drive, 12th Floor
Cambridge, MA 02142
United States

HOME PAGE: http://research.microsoft.com/

Seeta Peña Gangadharan

New America Foundation - Open Technology Institute ( email )

1899 L St., N.W., Suite 400
Washington, DC 20036
United States

Corrine Yu

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights ( email )

1629 K Street NW
10th Floor
Washington, DC 20006
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.civilrights.org/

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