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Nothing to Hide, Nothing to Fear?: Assessing Technologies for Diagnosis of Security Risks

NCJ Number
International Criminal Justice Review Volume: 17 Issue: 3 Dated: September 2007 Pages: 193-206
Ann Rudinow Saetnan
Date Published
September 2007
14 pages
This article examines parallels and differences between the assessment of medical and forensic technologies.
The article determined that when discussing forensic identification technologies, similar assessment procedures as those recommended for medical technologies should be followed. Amid the high demand for surveillance technologies, it is often assumed that these technologies would accurately identify only those guilty of crimes. In terms of measuring the accuracy of surveillance technologies as diagnostic tools, surveillance technologies have not been tested for accuracy in the manner that have come to be expected for medical diagnostic technologies. Medical technologies are designed to address sensitivity, or the number of those affected by a disease that the test can identify, and specificity, or the number of unaffected by the disease the test show as healthy. Even for medical tests with more than 90 percent sensitivity and specificity, the majority of test positive results are false. Using value estimates for the forensic identification technologies of facial recognition and DNA identification, this article estimates the vast majority of test positive results would be false. Following the procedures used for assessing medical technologies for the forensic technologies would allow for analysis of the consequences of the inevitable inaccuracies: the consequences for those falsely accused of crimes, the consequences if the guilty are not found, the determination for further investigation, exoneration of the falsely suspected, and the correct identification of the guilty. Assessments of forensic technologies have focused more on effectiveness than on protection of the innocent, more on sensitivity than on selectivity; assuming that the majority of citizens are law abiding, selectivity might be a more important issue as the possibility for mistakes could provoke those with “nothing to hide,” into a stance that promotes a reason to hide from surveillance. Tables, notes, references