The Challenges of Prediction: Lessons from Criminal Justice
I/S: A Journal of Law and Policy for the Information Society, Forthcoming
32 Pages Posted: 16 Oct 2017 Last revised: 4 Dec 2017
Date Written: October 16, 2017
Government authorities at all levels increasingly rely on automated predictions, grounded in statistical patterns, to shape people’s lives. Software that wields government power deserves special attention, particularly when it uses historical data to decide automatically what ought to happen next.
In this article, I draw examples primarily from the domain of criminal justice — and in particular, the intersection of civil rights and criminal justice — to illustrate three structural challenges that can arise whenever law or public policy contemplates adopting predictive analytics as a tool:
1) What matters versus what the data measure;
2) Current goals versus historical patterns; and
3) Public authority versus private expertise.
After explaining each of these challenges and illustrating each with concrete examples, I describe feasible ways to avoid these problems and to do prediction more successfully.
Keywords: Predictive Analytics, Big Data, Criminal Law, Civil Rights
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