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    Scholar on Using Computer Models to Fight Child Abuse: Some Schemes Already Used

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    A vast quantity of data, from hundreds of thousands of people is being used to construct computer models in an effort to predict child abuse and intervene before it can happen. Sputnik spoke to Dr Bernard Gallagher from the University of Huddersfield about this story.

    Sputnik: Obviously any step in limiting and combatting child abuse is welcomed, however, is there a risk that individuals could be wrongly targeted for something they were wrongly assumed to do?

    Bernard Gallagher: I think there both strengths and weaknesses through the use of this technology. Some people find change quite difficult, especially if it is involving technology. On the plus side, I think it’s important to say that some of these schemes are used already, but paper based schemes. We do have paper based schemes that are used to predict risks in child and also in many other public services. It also should be said that the use of this technology is a better scheme. Finally, on the reassuring side, when people are using paper based schemes to try and predict risk, that isn't infallible either. On the other side, there are potential downsides with this scheme. Does it work? Has it been tested? Those are crucial questions. More and more we are becoming aware of privacy and data protection issues, regarding online data, and I’m sure that all of the people involved in this scheme will give assurances that there aren't such risk and that there are measures being taken to combat these risks, but it’s sad to say that there some risks in terms of online data.

    Sputnik: On the subject of privacy, it’s something that many people feel quite strongly about — especially in recent years. Is there a potential violation of privacy through this scheme?

    Bernard Gallagher: There is a risk and I’m sure the people that are involved with this scheme have built in protections; I’m sure if you spoke to them they would be quite reassuring about the measures that they’ve taken, but the fact of the matter is that people’s data is being contravened on a daily basis and is a growing problem particularly in online fraud. If one is realistic there will be a risk in the sharing of this data.

    Sputnik: To many people out there, some may see this as a cost cutting method in stopping and preventing child abuse. Is there some truth in there?

    Bernard Gallagher: If it was purely a cost cutting measure, one would worry about it, but I think that does bring to mind a much bigger issue. People can better predict child abuse and do it with all the necessary safeguards, but I think the bigger problem is that a lot of the agencies involved trying to protect children, that’s health, education, the police etc. they’ve got fewer and fewer resources. When these cases are being identified it may well be that there aren’t the resources there to provide a service to those families anyway.

    The views expressed in this article are those of the speaker, and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


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    privacy, data, computer, model, child abuse
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