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Wednesday, July 13, 2016

In Wisconsin, a Backlash Against Using Data to Foretell Defendants’ Futures

By Mitch Smith
The New York Times
Originally published June 23, 2016

Here is an excerpt:

Compas is an algorithm developed by a private company, Northpointe Inc., that calculates the likelihood of someone committing another crime and suggests what kind of supervision a defendant should receive in prison. The results come from a survey of the defendant and information about his or her past conduct. Compas assessments are a data-driven complement to the written presentencing reports long compiled by law enforcement agencies.

Company officials say the algorithm’s results are backed by research, but they are tight-lipped about its details. They do acknowledge that men and women receive different assessments, as do juveniles, but the factors considered and the weight given to each are kept secret.

“The key to our product is the algorithms, and they’re proprietary,” said Jeffrey Harmon, Northpointe’s general manager. “We’ve created them, and we don’t release them because it’s certainly a core piece of our business. It’s not about looking at the algorithms. It’s about looking at the outcomes.”

The article is here.
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