The Florida State Department of Juvenile Justice will use predictive analytics software from IBM to predict which of its juvenile offenders are likely to return to crime. Sounds like Minority Report, but get ready for cloud computing and real-time data analytics to usher in new surveillance technologies.

The Florida State Department of Juvenile Justice says it will use predictive analytics software from IBM to foretell which of its juvenile offenders are likely to return to crime. The software, made by the SPSS division that Big Blue purchased last year, will replace Excel spreadsheets analyzed by employees. The software can look at far more data inputs and potentially handle more juvenile offenders faster than the older methods, and presumably the ability to incorporate more data points could lead to better results. Those deemed likely to re-offend are given specialized treatment.

The UK Ministry of Justice also uses IBM’s predictive software on its criminal population, to see which ones pose a greater threat to public safety upon release. IBM clearly plans to take SPSS beyond its former domain of market researchers and scientists and apply it to where the big money is — homeland security in these frightening times.

Deepak Advani, vice president of predictive analytics at IBM, said, “Predictive analytics gives government organizations worldwide a highly-sophisticated and intelligent source to create safer communities by identifying, predicting, responding to and preventing criminal activities. It gives the criminal justice system the ability to draw upon the wealth of data available to detect patterns, make reliable projections and then take the appropriate action in real time to combat crime and protect citizens.”

Is anyone else getting “Minority Report” flashbacks? I’m a little concerned as we evaluate our laws protecting citizen and corporate electronic communications (GigaOM Pro sub req’d), that we now have the tools to establish a reliable and cheap surveillance society. With the scale and flexibility of cloud computing, better data management flows and the infrastructure to run many of these queries, governments and private companies are going to have the resources to predict not only market trends and supply chain needs, but also behavior. IBM actually plans to marry its SPSS software to a scaled-out architecture to offer a data-analytics cloud.

Combine good software and the cloud, and the scanning of older data for predictive analysis could soon start incorporating real-time data. Given that someone has already been arrested after making comments on his Twitter feed and the police regularly scour Facebook pages looking for suspects and threats, it’s not so far-fetched.

Image courtesy of Flickr user AlanCleaver_2000

  1. A differentiating aspect of IBM’s new forays into analytics is that they are actively developing algorithms and technologies for scale-out platforms. The current popular choices are a tradeoff between extreme scalability and analytical capability; the kinds of analytics a platform like Hadoop can do today are very limited because the computer science doesn’t support it. IBM is making deep analytics at very high scales possible which opens up a lot of markets that had largely been the domain of science fiction until now.

    1. That’s a valuable distinction to make. Thanks!

  2. Sounds like IBM is still doing the same sort of stuff they did in World War 2.

  3. Bob B. Bobberson Thursday, April 15, 2010


    The numbers tattooed on Jewish wrists during WW2 were developed by IBM, just fyi.

    1. And the ovens were built by Audi. What’s your point?

      1. Well, I think the point is that business is by definition amoral, and everyone has dirt on their hands. It was pretty obvious. Sorry you missed it.

    2. Observer7 ):o} Friday, April 16, 2010

      your post is mumblejumble. and a lie…

  4. [...] Florida to use crime prediction software. [...]

  5. Howie Bledsoe Thursday, April 15, 2010

    Just measure the shape of the skull.

  6. [...] Hmmm…Software That Predicts If You Will Do Crime & Time [...]

  7. “I’m a little concerned …”

    Get very concerned. The idea of 1) using past and/or present acts and conditions (re records and self-report) to “predict” the “probability” of future crimes by felons (juvenile or adult) and 2) administering differential treatment based on that prediction are rotten to the core from both a scientific and legal standpoint.

    (Non-mathematically) As every fledgling statistic student is taught – or should be taught – “predicting” beyond the “range” of the available data (here, in time, past to present attitudes and behavior) on which the “prediction” is based, is not accepted as a valid procedure in predictive statistics. Even within the range of that available data, there is an “error term” associated with it. That is, there is only the probability a behavior happening, not certainty. Predicting beyond that range for an individual involves the assumption that past behavior will continue into the future in a more-or-less linear fashion (an extremely dubious assumption with youth transitioning into adulthood, though somewhat less dubious with adult repeat offenders) which would produce a large error term. Added uncertainty of prediction would devolve from having to use the past behavior of others – not that individual. (there is no “three-strikes rule” for statisticians – one strike and they’re out – but in this case there appears to be first, extrapolation beyond the available data on an individual, second, assuming linear continuation of past behavior into the future, and third, using data from others to establish the error of prediction for the given individual in the future. He’s out, he’s out, he’s out.

    If not apparent from the above, using such predictions as a basis for “differential treatment” stinks from a legal standpoint. In effect, an individual is being judged and treated for his anticipated future crimes rather than for deeds done and, worse, that judgment is being made on the basis of dubious assumptions and probabilities established by the behavior of others, not themselves.

    Now, I’m all for protecting society from dangerous individuals and treating the incarcerated, to the extent possible, in order to rehabilitate them. However, this goes beyond the pale and appears to be nothing more than pseudo-science being used a cover for acting on poorly validated preconceptions and prejudices. One could do as well – within the law and rights of the individual – by steeply escalating the incarceration time for each successive crime. That is, get the repeat offenders off the streets based on their past and present behaviors, not their poorly predicted future behaviors – an injustice and potential threat to us all, and quit trying to parole them as soon as possible to save “costs” which, in any case, is a false economy.

    1. You’re making a lot of assumptions about what this software will do and how it will do it that don’t appear in this article. For example you don’t know that it will predict “in a more or less-linear fashion” and that it doesn’t take account of changes in behavior of youth transitioning into adulthood. If may not, maybe it’s crap software, you can’t tell based on this article. You have no basis for those statements.

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