Police Are Calculating Your ‘Threat Score’ To Decide How To Treat You

I watched a documentary about North Korea which explained how the government there assigns a score to each citizen, based on how large a threat to the regime s/he is perceived to be. When I lived in Taiwan under a military government years ago, such a number was encoded into every national ID card. Those citizens every interaction with the government and police force was shadowed by those scores.

Same as in 21st century post-Constitutional America.

Even as our nation learned more about how our daily lives are cataloged by the National Security Agency, a new generation of technology is being used by local law enforcement that offers them unprecedented power to peer into the lives of citizens. Ominously, software that is part of such systems, assigns each citizen monitored a Threat Score, allegedly to alert cops enroute to a crime scene of what to expect of the once-innocent-until-proven-guilty citizen they will encounter.

One such product is a software suite called Beware. On their website, the maker claims:

There are no such things as routine calls… Accessed through any browser (fixed or mobile) on any Internet-enabled device including tablets, smartphones, laptop and desktop computers, Beware® from Intrado searches, sorts and scores billions of publically-available commercial records in a matter of seconds – alerting responders to potentially dangerous situations while en route to, or at the location of, a 911 request for assistance.

Intrado Beware® is a tool to help first responders understand the nature of the environment they may encounter during the window of a 911 event.

Police officials say such tools can provide critical information that can help uncover terrorists or thwart mass shootings, though no such uncovering has ever happened.

Programs such as Beware scour billions of data points, including arrest reports, property records, commercial databases, deep Web searches and social media postings. One example is how authorities in Oregon are facing a civil rights investigation after using social media-monitoring software to keep tabs on persons using #BlackLivesMatter hashtags.

Does anyone expect that a police response to a citizen labeled at a “low threat” level will be as preloaded for disaster as one for a “high threat” person? What if that police response is based primarily on the free speech protected use of a hash tag?

I wonder if my score will change after this article. Or yours, for reading it.

Peter Van Buren blew the whistle on State Department waste and mismanagement during Iraqi reconstruction in his first book, We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People. His latest book is Ghosts of Tom Joad: A Story of the #99 Percent. Reprinted from the his blog with permission.

15 thoughts on “Police Are Calculating Your ‘Threat Score’ To Decide How To Treat You”

  1. The article doesn't really address why the threat score is a problem. Comparison with North Korea is not a strong argument. The reality is most people don't see any problem with the principle of a threat score in itself. They think problems with the threat scores can be solved by tightening and improving the system.

        1. oh, you mean the fine folks who have lied us into war time and time again. Yeah, that's a great barometer for the position of the common man, seeing as we don't have minds of our own.

          & by "we" I mean you.

  2. Picture a small town in the nineteenth century- let's use a town in the wild west. Need one explain how the local constabulary already has a 'threat assessment' of the distress call? It was the same when there were beat-cops.
    I'm sorry, but this is "much ado about nothing."

    1. Those cops and constables made independent judgement calls based on there own intuition on a case by case basis. That is not what we're talking about here. What we're talking about is a top-down corpratist rating system that removes independent decision making from the cops and awards it to a faceless, unaccountable organization who's number one motivation is profit.

      If that doesn't scare the sh*t out of you, I don't know what will.

  3. If I told one of our heroic costumed Stasi wannabes he was a 70-IQ steroid-popping, doughnut eating slob whose mother works street corners, they wouldn't bother with a threat score. I would either go into cardiac arrest from the Taser or my skull would get ventilated with .45 caliber lead, right?

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