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Submission + - Police use cell tower logs to contact potential witnesses to unsolved murder (www.cbc.ca)

itamblyn writes: It what appears to be the first example of a new approach in investigative policing, Ontario Provincial Police are using cell phone tower logs to reach out to potential witnesses in an unsolved homicide case from 2015.

CBC reports (http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/frederick-john-hatch-homicide-cellphone-texts-1.3821821) that police "will be sending texts to about 7,500 people on Thursday to ask for information" to individuals that were, according to the cell phone tower logs, within the tower area near the time of the incident.

While we have heard lots of stories about cell phone tower logs being used in policing before (they are even discussed at length in Season 1 of Serial), I think this is the first case where they have been used to actively contact potential witnesses.

A news release by the police states that the texts will ask the recipient to "voluntarily answer a few simple questions to possibly help the Ontario Provincial Police solve this murder". CBC reports that "Investigators will also consider calling the numbers of people who don't respond voluntarily, but they would be required to obtain another court order to do so."

On one hand, this seems like the natural progression from the traditional approach of canvassing local residents by putting up flyers and knocking on doors. Indeed, the investigators use the term "digital canvas" to describe their plan.

On the other hand, I think one can reasonably ask — Are we OK with this approach? For example, presumably, it would be possible to get a better view of who was in the area by checking credit card transaction logs for all stores within the area. License plate readers and speed cameras might also give information about which vehicles were in the area. There are many levels of tracking that could be used simultaneously as a means of generating lists. The question is, do we want this to happen whenever there is a major crime? A minor one? Maybe this is just how things work now, and it really is no different than walking around, knocking on doors. I figured it was worth a discussion at the very least.

Comment Deployment (Score 2) 40

The rest of the article is actually pretty interesting. It sounds like there wasn't a clear plan (or at least the teachers weren't onboard) about how to work these into the classroom. OLPC had this problem too - tech people thought you could just hand out shiny things and everything would work out. It frequently doesn't work like this in the education setting. To be clear, BBC:Micro bit is really neat, and I think it will be useful, but it seems like figuring out how to effectively use stuff like this in the classroom continues to be a hard problem.

Comment Wrong move (Score 1) 428

I think that Uber is making the wrong decisions in these disaster scenarios. At least if you have an algorithm that responds to demand, you can stand behind it and say "this works as it is supposed to, and is designed to get the most number of people rides as quickly as possible". Once they start turning it on and off (when people complain), it starts to feel a lot more arbitrary and less fair.

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