George Orwell’s 1984 Oppression

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After reading and discussing the outcomes of high tech policing, I strongly take a stand with the critics of it. This is not only opinion, the data received by high tech policing technologies distort the true meaning of privacy and is a form of biased policing against poor and minority communities. Police are using high tech policing to target poor and minority communities. The main facts that support my claim are how high tech policing results in biases against minorities and poor people through the use of genetic surveillance, predictive policing, big data, and new emerging police technologies.

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Predictive policing is one software which brings up a lot of controversy, because they use mathematical algorithm to forecast where crimes are likely to occur. This relates to the claim that they target certain communities. ‘there’s obviously a lot of drug crime that goes on behind closed doors in fancy neighborhoods that isn’t going to be policed, and that creates a distorted window into actual crime problems.’ This is a great example to support the claim because this big data gathered targets certain areas and let other crimes go unnoticed. Over time, the algorithm keeps making assumptions about where a crime will be and tends to focus on certain neighborhoods and therefore disproportionately arrest minorities. The buildup of all the information that predictive policing gets creates historical crime data that is biased.

This results in predictive policing softwares that tell police where to go and when, but not what to do once there. So, you will have police stationed in certain parts of town that are ‘suspicious’ resulting in that community having to be watched over. Predictive policing can be considered to be a violation of the fourth amendment because people are getting searched before any crime is reported. People argue whether reasonable suspicion is enough to hold in court however the suspicion accounts not only for one person but the neighborhood. So, are all the people in that vicinity considered as reasonably suspicious. In the reading, it is said to be a ‘vicious cycle’ where poor minorities are the subject/the base of this oppression, and it has been like this since the establishment of the US.

The use of big data creates racial biases. The title ‘Feeding the machine’ is a good way to illustrate how big data works and how it leads to predictive policing, where every footprint you leave on your phone or computer is stored in a large database. The normalization and reliance that the police use is transforming policing forever since artificial intelligence will be the core of making searches. However, it is necessary that we update our laws on constitutional searches with the rapid growth of technology. There are ‘no laws governing police use of the technology, no standards ensuring its accuracy and no systems checking for bias,’ so this definitely needs to be updated. As time goes on, more data keeps on adding making it harder for the communities and people that being targeted to get out of the cycle.

This is because of the mathematical nature of the algorithms which in fact will grow bigger inequalities between communities. High tech policing threatens individual liberty and targets specific communities. Genetic surveillance is a way that police systematically profile poor people of color. The use of familial DNA searching puts people that are law abiding citizens as targets just because racial and genetic affiliation, which is very unfair. This data is stored in local databases in police departments and it cannot be tampered with. This racial profiling doesn’t only effect the individuals but also the communities they live in, like when the NYPD was discovered to be secretly targeting Muslim neighborhoods. However this is only one case that they caught, so there must be more secret operations going on that are racially profiling groups.

Knowing that you are being genetically profiled damages peoples feeling of individual liberty and makes them live their lives in fear and having distrust for police and the government. Genetic surveillance is one of the main things that create the cyclical nature of policing and build the profile for predictive policing which is built to oppress certain people. A statistic came back saying black defendants were twice as likely as white defendants to be mislabeled as future criminals, which means these people are labelled as criminals even before they have done anything. This reflects historical oppression and systematic racism that the FBI implements, considering that black people and other minorities are inferior.

This cyclical nature of police oppression goes down in the big data and further skews the algorithm to target poor minorities, and it will only result in a more and more biased system of policing. Racial profiling can even stem from instances that happen in world affairs, like the immigration issue for Mexicans, Muslim ‘terrorists’, etc make people more vulnerable to being searched or deemed suspect. Genetic surveillance undermines the legitimacy of the police because of unregulated local databases. Since individual local communities can keep a hold of these DNA records they are allowed to use them freely. Having no regulations means that they are ‘free to include consensual DNA samples from people deemed merely suspicious, victims, victims’ family members, and witnesses’ which means that all of those people are now put into the system and are on some sort of blacklist in the local databases.

For this part of the project the use of ideas in Orwellian rhetoric will defend my claim against high tech policing. The wisdom and knowledge of the book 1984 managed to connect what is going on with mass surveillance. This is a very valid question to ask, this goes way deeper than the fourth amendment because individuals are starting to feel a ‘big brother’ watching over them. We have now reached a point where there are conflicting ideas on what constitutes as privacy. ‘The normalization of surveillance diminishes societal and individual expectations of privacy’. Over time our expectations of privacy change, therefore it is time for a rewrite of the fourth amendment which would include the need for Technology specific laws. Use George Orwell for example, his expectations of privacy are far more private than how people conceive privacy now.

‘In the far distance a helicopter skimmed down between the roofs, hovered for an instant like a bluebottle, and darted away again with a curving flight. It was the police patrol, snooping into people’s windows’, this references the modern day drones that take pictures in suspect neighborhoods, however when he writes about it in his book that idea seems like more of a fantasy. Identifying people as future criminals has a profound effect and results in people living in fear, because the police are ready to strike at any moment when you slip up, similar to how people in Orwell’s world have to be very careful with their words and actions. This ‘reasonable’ suspicion that the police have is enough to search someone that is walking down the street even ‘acting suspect’.

The question to be asked is what constitutes as reasonable expectation of privacy for a person that hasn’t committed a crime yet, and it turns out that in fact we do not have any privacy. It is important to understand that being a police officer isn’t an easy job, and it can be a dangerous job as well. With newer technology it ‘adds a new layer of fear and suspicion’ to the police. Now with new technology police officers will go to a location and be expect a crime to go down, which means their mentality will automatically be more vigilant and oppressive since they are ‘expecting something’. Many police officers used cell site simulators in criminal investigations without a warrant. Therefore it was a violation of the fourth amendment.

According to Joshua Marquis : ‘local police shouldn’t be tapping into people’s phones without a search warrant from a judge and this is exactly what the police were doing for several years unnoticed.’ The use of body camera footage is crucial for police officers to equip at all times. If some parts of an incident are not recorded, the officer should be held accountable for it if it was deemed to be an unconstitutional search. It would make the police more transparent as they would be more aware of their actions, just like how civilians are always being looked over.

In conclusion, high tech policing started a huge transformation in policing. These high tech technologies are biased by targeting poor people and minorities. The use of predicted policing, big data, genetic surveillance, target specific populations and keep them in a cyclical problem of crime. The buildup of data having the ability to predict places and people of future crimes is problematic since under that ideology, people are already criminals before they do anything. This effects peoples individual dignity and their communities in a negative way. Taking the dignity away from minorities through these processes of high tech policing creates a culture of fear in minority communities where people feel targeted by the police.

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George Orwell's 1984 Oppression. (2022, Feb 07). Retrieved from