Chicago police gang database targets young, black males

Mothers of black, male teenagers in Chicago, fear their children will be added to the Chicago Police Department's gang database. As of the end of 2017, the database contains the names of 130,000 people, 90% of them black or Latino, who are suspected of being gang members. Most have never been arrested for a violent offence or for a drug or weapons charge. The police are not required to notify those who are added to the database, and the reasons for inclusion may be as trivial as style of dress or the presence of tattoos. Those in the database find it difficult to pass the background checks necessary for employment or professional licences, and they are highly likely to wind up in jail if they are stopped by police for any reason. The database is also shared with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Community activists and a growing number of elected officials agree the database needs to be reformed.

What is Privacy International calling for?

Personalisation, persuasion, decisions and manipulation


The data that is observed, derived or predicted from our behaviour is increasingly used to automatically rank, score, and evaluate people. These derived or inferred data are increasingly used to make consequential decisions through ever more advanced processing techniques. In the future people will be scored in all aspects of their lives, societies will be managed invisibly, and human behaviour will be under the control of the few and the powerful.

Profiling makes it possible for highly sensitive details to be inferred or predicted from seemingly uninteresting data, producing derived, inferred or predicted data about people. As a result, it is possible to gain insight into someone’s presumed interests, identities, attributes or qualities without their knowledge or participation.

Such detailed and comprehensive profiles may or may not be accurate or fair. However, increasingly such profiles are being used to make or inform consequential decisions, from finance to policing, to the news users are exposed to or the advertisement they see. These decisions can be taken with varying degrees of human intervention and automation.

In increasingly connected spaces, our presumed interests and identities also shape the world around us. Real-time personalisation gears information towards an individual’s presumed interests. Such automated decisions can even be based on someone’s predicted vulnerability to persuasion or their inferred purchasing power.

Automated decisions about individuals or the environment they are exposed to offer unprecedented capabilities to nudge, modify or manipulate behaviour. They also run risk of creating novel forms of discrimination or unfairness. Since these systems are often highly complex, proprietary and opaque, it can be difficult for people to know where they stand or how to seek redress.

Personalisation, persuasion, decisions and manipulation

Individuals need to have full insight into their profiles. This includes full access to derived, inferred and predicted data about them.

Principle 8. We should know all our data and profiles