In a recent piece for WIRED Magazine, I explore the role of technology in crime reduction to date and take a look at future dangers and opportunities. The work for this piece left me thinking about the critical question of the ensuring businesses, government (and its various agencies) and citizens all take on their responsibilities for preventing crime – and pay a fair share of crime prevention costs. My recommendations (from an earlier, longer version) of the article said…
“though the tools for reducing crime through technology are improving year on year, we must remember that many of the pre-conditions of success are not really about technology at all. First, companies must take seriously their responsibilities for protecting expensive consumer goods – and governments must step in when they do not. For many years, both car and mobile phone manufacturers failed to improve security even when it was cheap and easy to do so. After all, from their point of view each item stolen simply led to another sale paid for by insurance or out of victims’ pockets.
Second, the public needs to be far better educated about new risks and pay at least some of the costs of their online carelessness, perhaps through insurance products. Few people currently protect their privacy online partly because banks still usually cover online fraud losses. Only now are some banks reviewing what they should do if someone commits the online equivalent of leaving the front door unlocked and a sign advertising what items are inside.
Third, government needs to open a much deeper debate about trade-offs between liberty and security, given how much surveillance technology is already being used.
And fourth, governments must make careful choices about who should lead efforts domestically and internationally. Security services have led much innovation to date, but they are focused on terrorism, not crime in general, and hardly have a culture of transparency. The police meanwhile are domestically focused and generally still getting to grips with the fact it is worth checking a suspect’s online presence before interviewing them.
The question for 2017 is not whether technology can reduce crime. It already has. Rather, we must ask how we harness technology best, and what roles should individuals, businesses and governments play in this worthwhile collective endeavour?”
Read the final article, which appeared in the WIRED World in 2017 special edition, here.