Manufacturing Crime with an App

In this extended interview with Gemma Galdon Clavell, she talks about policing as they relate to social media platforms and how tech amplifies social dynamics. 

How Tech Facilitates Communication Between the Police and the Public

Q: With Black Lives Matters protests and this current news moment, we’re looking at every intersection of society and how it relates to Black Lives Matter.

As of late, Nextdoor has come under fire with a Karen problem.

Is it the algorithm or the way the app is constructed that makes Nextdoor users more inclined to calling the police?

Also, Nextdoor has a new feature for public agencies. The police department can create accounts. Users can forward photos, videos, text to these public agencies. There’s a forward to police feature now. What does that mean for users to be engaged with public agencies using Nextdoor?

Peer-to-Peer Surveillance

Q: What studies have you conducted? Were these studies based on geographically based platforms, similar to Nextdoor?

Turning a Benign Existing Group into a Security Group

Q: There are communities that are part of WhatsApp groups to notify one another of suspicious behavior in their city and neighborhood.

Did your research consist of looking at WhatsApp groups and how they created informal policing?

Is there a moderator in WhatsApp? Facebook?

Images Can Tell Lies

Q: What makes Nextdoor’s app riskier than WhatsApp or Facebook?

Algorithms Reinforce Dangerous Social Dynamics

Q: Nextdoor recommends imagery you might like. What’s the social impact with how we engage with this app mean for us?

How to Improve this Neighborhood App?


Real Criminals Who Actually Abuse Public Safety Systems

In contrast to manufacturing crime on an app, it’s often downplayed how well real criminals adapt to new public safety systems. Just like CCTV cameras did not end burglaries – criminals adapted and stepped up their game. New crimes will and have emerged with the use of databases, AI and OSINT systems. Technological innovations often result in a permanent technological rat race. 

There is a tendency to assume that anything digital is safe and secure. However, we have seen how everything digital is vulnerable. Sometimes due to technical and cybersecurity flaws, sometimes due to how humans operate systems. Overall, we find that the misuse of systems is overlooked, and databases end up in the wrong hands.

However, the most dangerous aspect of public safety systems is how poorly they are built, how threat models are not defined, and how we are building a security infrastructure with feet of clay, full of vulnerabilities. We still have a long way to go to properly integrate tech with safety and security.

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