In the future, Interpol wants to detect crimes as early as possible before they happen. The international police organization says it is working on a “secure, intelligent and scalable” big data platform. It should make it possible to process “huge amounts of data from multiple sources” such as the Internet in general and social media in particular “in different formats quickly and efficiently”. This includes “databases and analysis files, notices and communications, free text information, police reports, images and videos.” Ultimately, the system should enable “advanced and predictive analyses”, i.e. also be able to anticipate future events.
Anticipate events with big data
Interpol promises that the project, dubbed “Insight,” will enable criminal investigators to “recognize hidden connections, crime patterns and trends more quickly” through the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. In this way, member states can be provided with up-to-date and usable information “that advances their investigations, identifies topics of interest, discloses procedures and promotes greater police cooperation worldwide.” Capabilities such as natural language processing, facial and object recognition and matching, and process automation will also be used “to handle the ever-increasing amounts and types of data generated by today’s law enforcement investigations.”
According to the Association for Strengthening Cooperation between National Police Authorities, Insight is a “large-scale, complex” project with several phases. In the first phase, a “minimally functional platform” should start as early as 2021 and better evaluate Interpol’s internal data, for example through object identification, translation and network and location analyses. In 2018, the organization had 91 million records, and by the end of 2022 there were already 125 million – an increase of over 37 percent. The 80 million euro I-Core project for the digitization of police files alone is likely to add a lot more data in the next few years.
Criticism of misuse of search databases
In the second phase, which runs until 2023, the platform will be supplemented with “additional data sources and types”. In the final third stage, scheduled from 2024 to 2026, it is planned that the system will be able to include and evaluate all internal and external sources, including commercial databases. In October 2022, Interpol Secretary General Jürgen Stock reported at the organization’s general assembly in India that Insight could now be used to “support the operational measures of our authorities”. Innovative approaches such as new biometric matching functions, an in-house messaging app and the use of “the power of artificial intelligence” are crucial.
According to the British civil rights organization Statewatch, the development of the platform is being financed with $12.5 million by the US State Department’s Counterterrorism Office, among others. According to the U.S. government, another $2.1 million comes from unspecified “non-federal funds.” In a video in 2020, Interpol explained that the money from the USA was only enough for phase 1. Observers estimate that tens of millions of US dollars will be needed to make progress. Researchers and civil society initiatives such as Statewatch have repeatedly complained that Interpol has not prevented the misuse of its alarm system and other wanted databases by states that persecute dissidents abroad. Insight is likely to reinforce such criticism. At the same time, the EU Parliament is pushing for a ban on “predictive policing” to be anchored in the planned AI regulation.
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