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An Important Read

mzmazz By mzmazz Published on January 4, 2017

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Cathy O'Neil has written an important book for anyone interested in equity.  Written in an accessible way, she shows how algorithms are used by various institutions to perpetuate inequality in society.  

An examination of "targeted advertising" explains at the predatory practices used by "for-profit" colleges to enrol individuals who are vulnerable and have low-self-esteem, encouraging them to take out massive loans which will leave them with debt loads which they will struggle to repay, because these "for-profit" college degrees have no more value than a high school diploma and aren't the sure fire route to the "American Dream".  She also explains how these individuals are specifically targeted by the use of Big Data companies who troll internet search histories and hone in on specific activities.  

There has been a lot of ink used on the topic of policing lately.  Cathy O'Neill looks at ways in which some forces are using Predictive software in order to do more with fewer officers.  On its face this seems to be a wise use of increasingly limited resources.  The reality, as O'Neill explains is radically different.  By using these software programs, officers are sent to patrol particular areas of a city/town because the data says that particular area has a higher likelihood of criminal activity.  Sure enough the officers find criminal activity and arrest the offenders and the data from these arrests is fed into the predictive algorithm and lo and behold, the area for "preventative" patrols is refined.  The problem is that most of the crime that is feeding the data is low level, nuisance crime often committed out of need and/or desperation.  The areas in which these crimes tend to take place are, of course, areas of poverty.  In effect using software like PredPol(TM)  is criminalising poverty.

Secondary school teacher , dog fancier and bibliophile. I have a love of language well massaged. I am a left leaning, new idea seeking, life long learning nerd and proud of it. I am learning ... Show More

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