Social unrest and crime is on the rise around the globe

  • The Scenario

    The economic crises and austerity measures meant the police will have to do more with less once more. In most Chinese cities, facial recognition on CCTV is now standard. With other means of societal surveillance, such as biometrics on public transport, the universal Social Credit System that tracks bank records and voice recognition ATMs, many see China as having become the archetypal “surveillance state”. There have been abuses of these systems, but this is a price the majority appear willing to pay for their convenience and safety. The US has been using algorithmic-based predictive policing for some years now. The jails are still bursting with African-Americans and undocumented immigrants, but this has ceased to be a “live” political issue. In less wealthy countries, predictive policing systems are used primarily to protect the rich from the poor, creating virtual gated communities. Europe is caught in the middle. Migration into Europe from many directions remains high. The ageing European population finds this unnerving and has difficulty developing a consistent and effective response. Support for the far right and the far left continues to rise, and each side is helping to tear the fabric of society fabric apart. Violence, fraud, online scams and hacking are all significant problems for social stability.

    In response to these challenges, the police need to remain effective and accountable. Smart policing systems thatpredict the location and sometimes the perpetrators of crimes can help to compensate for the lack of resources.However, they are also criticised for invading the privacy of citizens and Europe has always seen itself as the voice of reason on human rights. The European Charter for Fundamental Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights are known globally and often used as yardsticks on such matters in the UN. Can Europe be seen to backtrack? Can all of this come under the legal exceptions of radicalisation and counter-terrorism, even when much is clearly a response to low-level and white collar crime? Is it time to expand such exceptions to include promoting civil unrest? There are some technical solutions: AI thatis transparent in its processes, for example,will not deal with biases but can at least help with adherence to and civil human rights, but it is clear that more needs to be done to restore trust in the police.

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