Between Technology and Criminal Justice
I. Introduction As information plays a vital role in the advancements of criminal justice system, technological changes are closely related to the best conduct of criminal justice. The very efficiency of system can be integral to the quality of justice it provides. Moreover, the timely dissemination of information through new technologies too has larger impacts on criminal justice system. At present, technological development has become more complex and it has given birth to new types of databases which are qualitatively different.
The purpose of this paper is to analyze the effects of technological advancements pertaining to the communication capabilities of criminal justice system. It would the merits and demerits of major databases such as AFIS, Live Scan, Facial Recognition, and Iris Scan briefly and compares them in their strengths and weaknesses.
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II. Technology, Database and Criminal Justice Over the years, information technology has become a key component of the criminal justice systems as it has unprecedentedly enhanced the communication capabilities of database available for the conduct of criminal justice.
Not only the inquiry bodies such as police but also courts and governments as decision making agencies too make use of advances information and communication technologies in their pursuit of criminal justice. Blitz (2004) has argued that the creation of databases for entire population itself is illegal and categorically asserts that “it is not merely the continuing observation of activities that undercuts privacy, but to an even greater degree, the ongoing recording of these activities”.
Importantly, criminals too have been using sophisticated technology not only for cyber crimes but also for inflicting severe crimes over several realms of social life. Technologically sophisticated databases “such as GPS tracking bracelets, biometric scanners, online offender indexes, and DNA databases–give the government power to control dangerous persons without relying on any exertion of physical control” (Murphy, 2008). Automated Fingerprints Identification Systems (AFIS) enables the checking of criminal history records of a person just a matter of minutes.
It has been argues that “the ability of AFIS systems to search millions of records in minutes and present candidates to the latent print examiner borders on the incredible” (Komarinski, 2005). AFIS is technologically sophisticated mainly in three counts; quantity wise-the extent of fingerprints could be cross checked, quality wise- the extent of correctness of the information and time wise-the extent of time saving and other related benefits involved. AFIS can be helpful not only in identifying criminals but also the victims of crime.
Following the World Trade Center attack, it is with the help of AFIS, “the latent print examiners were able to identify over 300 victims, bringing closure and comfort to their families. This would not have been possible without AFIS technology” (Komarinski, 2005). It is also helpful for identifying people with memory disorders or who are dead. Moreover, it could be as intense as possible to integrate the entire biometric details of all the people in the world.
Also, it is possible to link AFIS systems easily with other databases too. AFIS can also be used in avoiding welfare cheating and the right allocation of government services for the right people. As AFIS systems grow in spectacular speed, a latent print found at crime site could be compared against all the known people and if not matching, could be stored for future match. Iris Scan is highly advanced as “which are per perceived to have a higher accuracy rate than traditional facial recognition programs”.
Also, Iris scan enables the documentation of ones identity without even his/her identity as it is legal in most countries to snap the image of a person in public. It also could be potentially used for imposing “residency and movement restrictions that declare certain areas off limits to particular individuals” who have conditional paroles, barring notices or stay away orders. However, it gives the possibility of the misuse of Iris Scan databases for segregating ethnic minorities or other dissident groups.
A technology like Live Scan or Iris Scan can be an easy tool for governments and big corporations to breach the privacy of innocent individuals and authoritarian regimes could well use them for surveillance of the entire population. Also, such databases and techniques could be hacked by criminal elements and used for terrorizing the whole world. Murphy (2005) has pointed out that government strategies virtual contol could be more dangerous than physical control as still the “courts unduly focus on the physical world as the relevant metric against which all restraints are judged.
As a result, technologies of restraint are imposed without necessary procedural safeguards”. The unaccountability of the possible uses of databases by the governments too is a matter of alarming concern. In other words, a technological development such as Iris Scan enables the government and security agencies to monitor the entire population amounting to imprison people in a prison without walls. In comparison, it could be argued that Iris Scan could be considered as the best available database could be used fro criminal justice.
It does not involve any physical touch for the obtaining of date and it could be taken without the consent of a person. Moreover, Iris Scan could be well used to obtain the sample even from an unwilling person without using force. III. Conclusion The technological advancements have helped the conduct of criminal justice faster, accurate and less procedurally complex. More than punitive measures, database could be used also for affirmative actions such as victim identification, welfare distribution, cheat prevention etc.
However, it opens up new possibilities for abuse as well such as those by authoritarian regimes and commercial interests in monitoring the population. Reference Blitz, M. J. (2004). Video Surveillance and the Constitution of Public Space: Fitting the Fourth Amendment to a World That Tracks Image and Identity. Texas Law Review. 82 (6). pp. 1349-85 Komarinski, P. (2005) Automated Fingerprint Identification Systems (AFIS). Burlington. Elsevier Academic Press. Murphy, E. (2008). Paradigms of Restraint. Duke Law Journal. 57 (5). pp. 1321-45