I’ve been very keen on looking at ways in which modern technology can help address genuine crime in my country. It’s true that there has always been a shortage of man-power in the police forces – but surely a society should have the ability to police itself within the confines of the law? to make use of the goodwill of vigilante citizens who want to help? The word vigilante doesn’t have to mean citizens taking the law into their own hands, it originates from the word ‘vigilance’ and I believe you can find a legal balance. What I present here are some flavours of this that I have been working on. For a long time now I have been considering an idea that addresses potential issues shared across various situations.
For a long time now I have been considering an idea that addresses potential issues shared across various situations. These are:
- People warning other people over violent/dangerous ex-partners
- People warning other people about those known to have unhealthy predatory behaviours towards children
- Peoplebeing able to warn others about those in positions of trust acting innappropriately (doctors, teachers etc)
These are aeas in which citizens have the information to share and warn other citizens but there is no real platform to do it and the data is not available for ‘mining’ because it’s not easy to mention these things in a legal framework in the public domain.
A rapist alert website Most of us know someone who has been victim of a serious sexual attack at some point, it’s not uncommon to share this experience with friends but not police workers. Naturally, victims want to do the opposite of evidence preservation after this type of assault. As a result of this, even if the attack is known it is one persons word against another which isn’t strong enough evidence to find them guilty. The power a victim has afterwards is that of warning other people but this is a legal mine-field. It’s easy to setup ‘rapebook.com’ – but in the confines of the law this isn’t as straight forward. So I have three questions for a prototype to test:
- Is there a way for victims to privately share the identity of an attacker without mentioning their name? This would be legal, so how do we do this? The approach I’m looking at uses the same strategy as the child’s game ‘guess who?’ or ‘twenty questions’. There must be enough small pieces of information that you can ask someone to fix down on a single person. A series of questions that allows the website to link profiles being created by users reporting the same dangerous person.
- I’d not want to give false-allegations any room on the platform to grow and it should be expected just like has been found in cases – people lie and it is later admitted to be a false accusation. The solution would be for people logging a a dangerous person to proove who they are in some way in real-time. This also helps in being able to find them if their information becomes useful to police work.
- Can multiple people end up contributing to a profile of a repeat offender? Can this group of people who have never met and reporting incidents at different times show a pattern? Can it tip the balance between word against word to word again a whole group of testimonies? This is where I wonder if this type of system could create data of actionable value to police. A trial would have to involve finding this pattern and putting it to the test.
My independent review service for patients of bad doctors: In the same genre of application, we have people being able to leave reviews of doctors. If you were going for surgery, you’d want to know if your surgeon has a pattern of leaving irreversible damage versus one who has never done so. I’m not talking about genuine accidents here, we are talking about a pattern of results that just isn’t acceptable. An example would be Dr Shipman, the doctor who came under the spotlight in 2000 as the biggest serial killer in history who was found guilty of killing 15 people – these were 15 cases selected from over 250 patients whose medical history and health status did not fit with the death certificates he wrote. A citizen data collection scheme would have flagged this pattern allot sooner. It is also not commonly known that when you sign a consent form and are told the odds of risk – this is usually the national average or the hospitals average statistics. The surgeons statistics may be allot higher so you would be taking a greater risk, but your risk would reduce if you could find out individual surgeons statistics. This would also identify doctors who needs more training in technique or just better support, less hours, better assistance etc. The first job was to find a way to build up a database of every doctor in the UK to make leaving feedback easy. The GMC (UK General Medical Council) has a way of allowing you to look up a registered doctor to see their qualifications and registration details but does not go into any kind of feedback service. I served a data protection act request with the GMC and they provided me with a secure download of their entire database of every registered doctor and surgeon in the UK. Within a few weeks I had a doctor review service up and running privately. The first issue I ran into with some test users is that many doctors have the same name and it’s not easy to leave feedback on the correct doctor unless you know their GMC number which is not always on documentation or websites, there is no open source of information tracking where doctors are working – the same doctor might be in multiple locations. Another challenge is how doctors could have justification or a liable action – this is their right and I would not like to see a good doctor feel wrongly represented. It would have to start with basic fixed-answer questions so an experience report does not allow an individuals opinion to be provided – the data is purely a measurement of results of treatment. Doctors may like to register to get an alert with time to address this before it becomes accepted as ‘not challenged yet’. Doctors are human and make mistakes, it will always be an ‘odds’ game – this is not about putting a doctors name out there when something goes wrong – patients die all the time around doctors. This is about finding red-flags of too many complaints of negative results of the same procedure which would trigger an alert to the hospital/GMC. It’s early days – there are more holes in the plan to look at, but for now it’s just an idea and code on a private server having the tires kicked. I’ll leave you with this infographic.