Document Type



Criminal Law | Science and Technology Law


By equipping police with data, what are we trying to accomplish? Certain answers ring familiar. For one thing, we are trying to make criminal justice decisions, plagued as they often are by inaccuracy and bias, more refined. For another, we are trying to boost the efficiency of governance institutions-police departments, prosecutor's offices, municipal courts-that operate under the pall of scarcity.

For the moment, I want to put answers like these to one side; not because they are wrong, but because they seem like only part of the story. Another goal of big data policing, in addition to those just described, is to produce a social order-a surveillance society-in which people constantly monitor and curate the data-trails they leave behind in everyday life. The idea of self-monitoring in response to surveillance is not new. Data intensifies and extends this dynamic; it does not create the dynamic ex nihilo. But the fact remains: in both scale and scope, data surveillance today lacks meaningful precedent. We are fast approaching a world in which virtually everything one does at t1--every movement one makes in public, every bond one forges on social media, every transaction one participates in-will be recorded and archived, becoming a potential foundation for adverse treatment at t2.