Many people have claimed that algorithms and other advanced technology can help law enforcement determine who is or isn't more likely to commit a crime. But it turns out that those algorithms are often no matter than some random person on the internet.
A study by researchers at Dartmouth compared the algorithm COMPAS, which helps determine how likely a former convict is to reoffend and is used by multiple states, with random poll users on Amazon. The study found that the random internet users, who had no criminal justice experience, were just as accurate as the algorithm.
The researchers gave the poll users information about a defendant and asked whether they believed the person would commit a crime again. The poll users were correct about 67 percent of the time. The COMPAS algorithm was correct only 65 percent of the time.
The company behind COMPAS said the study actually confirmed how effective their algorithm is, noting that the standard for risk-assessment tools in criminal justice is around 0.70.
It turns out that when you actually look at all the data, there are only two things that matter in determining whether a person will commit a crime again: age and prior convictions. The older a person is, the less likely it is that they will reoffend. And the younger the person is, the more likely.
Do we really need a computer to tell us that?