Sex & Property – The digitalization of crime and the future of policing

by Thomas-Gabriel Rüdiger

Cyberbullying, hacking and Hatespeech: Our world has changed. Already today there are crimes that we did not know a few years ago. New technologies are being developed at short intervals, which make new crimes possible.

The future of crime is digital

In the future, there will hardly be any crimes that have no connection to the digital space. In addition to cyberwar and hacking, completely new offences will probably establish themselves – parallel to technological progress.

Digitalised sexual offences

Digitised sex will be a major challenge for criminology and the rule of law. More and more sex robots and toys are coming onto the market. Not only that – they become online ready for “cybersex”. This enables couples to have sexual intercourse even over long distances – via remote control.

But what happens when sex toys and robots are hacked and controlled by strangers? When they are abused to do violence to a human being? Can this be prosecuted as rape in the conventional sense? The use of technologies such as virtual and augmented reality inevitably gives rise to a new class of offences for which laws must be formulated.

Already today, deceptively realistic-looking child dolls that allow the imitation of sexual abuse are on the market. A networking of these dolls will open up new offences especially in the area of abuse.

Virtual Reality: Offences are also becoming more real

The terms Hatespeech and cyberbullying are probably known to everyone who moves on the net today. When people increasingly wear VR glasses in virtual realities, assaults also take on a different quality – they also become more realistic. Victims can be traumatized in a new way in virtual reality.

“playground” for sex crimes

Sexual harassment opens up completely new dimensions and burdens for the victims. New forms of abuse are already possible today. For example, when faces of strangers are transferred into – in the worst case paedophile – pornographic films and then blackmailed. Such an offence is sometimes treated as “sextortion”. This is a combination of the English words sex and extortion.

Cyberstalking, cyberbullying and sextortion

Body implants and the Internet of Things will pose serious challenges for police work. The educational work is made more difficult because the hacker of a body implant or a highly sensitive machine-to-machine production can act from another state. At the same time, the attack objects and targets multiply.

Automated crime – The development of independent artificial intelligence raises new questions for jurisdiction, criminology and policing

If integrated bots make independent decisions, a new form of crime will inevitably arise. For this also gives the AI the opportunity to break the norms of the respective society and to commit crimes on its own.

As early as 2015, the now famous Bot Tay from Microsoft should be learning from the behaviour of users on Twitter. As a result, after a short time he posted statements that could be punishable under German law. How should policemen and people distinguish between a bot and a real person? Probably not at all!

Even if producers of bots, AI and other independent programs do not intend their inventions to become criminal – what to do if they do?

Digital Nuclear Crimes

In doing so, I assume that in future mankind will have to agree on “digital core crimes”, which are globally punishable.

Global international criminal law

For digital offences, a kind of “global (digital) world criminal law” will be inevitable. I suspect that these will mainly be sexual or abuse and property offences.

Property and sexual abuse

Abuse offences, because in most states children are protected from abuse and no one will publicly speak out against such protection. Property offences, because the right to property is considered relevant in almost all countries.

World criminal law – a utopia?

If people think that such a global criminal law is a utopia, I am happy to counter with the following: once upon a time, common rules for road traffic worldwide were also a utopia! Nevertheless, nowadays probably everyone understands that they should wait at a stop sign or a red light. What does this mean for policing in the future?

Digital World Police

There will be two basic fields for digital police work. On the one hand, a world criminal law would create a digital world police force, which would have to be given rudimentary executive rights for enforcement. Such an extension of tasks and powers could, for example, be transferred to Interpol.

Digitalized police work

On the other hand, every aspect of “normal” police work will become digital. A similar process could be observed in the establishment of the motor vehicle. Today it is normal that almost all police work is in some way related to road traffic. Be it patrols, prosecution of traffic offences, trips to crime scenes or even the recording of accidents.

This fact is also reflected in police training, where these aspects play an important role and it is not for nothing that every future police officer must prove that he or she holds a driving licence.

Media literacy, police bots and virtual police patrols

Such a comparable digital transport literacy – media literacy – is likely to play the same role and become an absolute key police skill of this century. The experienced handling of digital media will be urgently needed. This is because it is a matter of course for police officers to be accessible to citizens via a wide variety of digital media – and because “virtual patrols” actively search for crimes on the Internet.

The police will only be able to respond to the mass of offences in the digital space through automation

Even if every police officer were to be able to travel independently in the digital space in the future, this would not be enough. Automation of policing could be achieved, for example, through “police bots” that independently search for criminal content on the net.

Dehumanization of crime

A dehumanisation of crime and its (criminal) reactions could be the consequence. What does that mean? If a bot commits criminal acts and is subsequently investigated by an independent police bot, no human being is involved.

The trend towards using algorithms to make predictions about crime, “predictive policing”, is also virtually unstoppable and will in future be highly automated – from analysis to prevention and prosecution.

Data analysis and crime prevention

Linking and data analysis as well as automated evaluation for the purpose of fighting crime will therefore continue.

Chinese police officers are already being equipped with face recognition glasses that scan for wanted persons

This technology is now also used worldwide in railway stations and public places. This is ultimately a question of the efficiency of police work: it saves personnel resources while (supposedly) increasing security.

Renaissance of the multifactor approach

Already in the early days of criminology, the idea developed that many different factors in interaction could lead to crime. The more unfavourable factors are present in a person, the more likely he is to become a criminal.

I expect that in some countries predictions about the criminal development of human beings will be made by analysing digital data. Especially in despotic countries this could lead to a new form of oppression of their citizens.

All interpersonal communication and interaction of the police will be digitised

Here, visual communication techniques are conceivable, for example communicating with a virtual policeman. With “Google Duplex”, Google has shown how realistically computers can (will) conduct human communications. A verbal advertisement acceptance by an AI seems to be future-oriented.

In addition to virtual ad acceptances, it seems obvious to me that the entire police work will increasingly be outsourced to robots. This will range from drones to self-propelled patrol cars.

First steps in this direction are already being taken by many police authorities worldwide

It seems obvious that such a process should be framed by social debates. However, there is – at least in Germany – a lack of a basic strategy as to what an actual digital police force should look like: What function is it to perform? How will it be legally and logistically equipped for this?

About time!





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