Intelligence, policing and the use of algorithmic analysis: a freedom of information-based study.

Marion Oswald, Jamie Grace

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This article is an exploration of some of the legal, policy and practical issues of using what is termed as 'algorithmic analysis' of police intelligence in the UK today. This type of intelligence analysis is thought to facilitate accurate and 'predictive' policing planning, strategy and tactics. There are, however, ethical and legal issues around this growing policy stance - many of them predicated on concerns around privacy and potential discrimination. To gain a better understanding of these issues, as they are currently developing, a freedom of information (FOI) request was sent in several parts to all police forces in the UK: i) seeking to establish the extent to which algorithmic analysis of intelligence is currently used in UK policing; ii) investigating the handling of intelligence by police forces; and iii) reviewing how the police in the UK regulate and monitor disciplinary issues around the handling of intelligence. We gained a partial picture of these issues - since there are some methodological limitations to FOI-based studies - but the responses to our FOI request revealed enough disparities and differences in developing practice to suggest a number of recommendations regarding the legality, accountability and transparency of 'algorithmic' police intelligence analysis.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages14
JournalInformation Rights, Policy & Practice
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 18 Oct 2016
Externally publishedYes


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