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Recent articles

Carine Hajjar - The National Review - 6 July 2020

“In a recent article, social scientist Patrick Ball revisited his and Kristian Lum’s 2015 study, which made a compelling argument for the underreporting of lethal police shootings by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS). Lum and Ball’s study may be old, but it bears revisiting amid debates over the American police system — debates that have featured plenty of data on the excessive use of police force. It is a useful reminder that many of the facts and figures we rely on require further verification.”

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Ursula Whitcher - American Mathematical Society - July 2020

“In 2016, two researchers, the statistician Kristian Lum and the political scientist William Isaac, set out to measure the bias in predictive policing algorithms. They chose as their example a program called PredPol.  … Lum and Isaac faced a conundrum: if official data on crimes is biased, how can you test a crime prediction model? To solve this technique, they turned to a technique used in statistics and machine learning called the synthetic population.”

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The GovLab - Medium - 8 June 2020

From the article: “As we seek to advance the responsible use of data for racial injustice, we encourage individuals and organizations to support and build upon efforts already underway.” HRDAG is listed in the Data Driven Activism and Advocacy category.

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Carrie Arnold - National Geographic - 27 May 2020

From the article: “Intentionally inconsistent tracking can also influence the final tally, notes Megan Price, a statistician at the Human Rights Data Analysis Group. During the Iraq War, for example, officials worked to conceal mortality or to cherry pick existing data to steer the political narrative. While wars are handled differently from pandemics, Price thinks the COVID-19 data could still be at risk of this kind of manipulation.”

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Izzy Pirimai Aguiar - Stanford Institute for Computational & Mathematical Engineering (ICME) - 27 February 2020

From the article: “Price described the touchstone of her organization as being a tension between how truth is simultaneously discovered and obscured. HRDAG is at the intersection of this tension; they are consistently participating in science’s progressive uncovering of what is true, but they are accustomed to working in spaces where this truth is denied. Of the many responsibilities HRDAG holds in its work is that of “speaking truth to power,” said Price, “and if that’s what you’re doing, you have to know that your truth stands up to adversarial environments.”

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Kyra Gurney - International Consortium of Investigative Journalists - 17 September 2019

Ball analyzed the data reporters had collected from a variety of sources – including on-the-ground interviews, police records, and human rights groups – and used a statistical technique called multiple systems estimation to roughly calculate the number of unreported deaths in three areas of the capital city Manila.

The team discovered that the number of drug-related killings was much higher than police had reported. The journalists, who published their findings last month in The Atlantic, documented 2,320 drug-linked killings over an 18-month period, approximately 1,400 more than the official number. Ball’s statistical analysis, which estimated the number of killings the reporters hadn’t heard about, found that close to 3,000 people could have been killed – more than three times the police figure.

Ball said there are both moral and technical reasons for making sure everyone who has been killed in mass violence is counted.

“The moral reason is because everyone who has been murdered should be remembered,” he said. “A terrible thing happened to them and we have an obligation as a society to justice and to dignity to remember them.”

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Jacob Lorinc - The Toronto Star - 25 August 2019

Earlier this year, the Canadian Tamil Congress connected with HRDAG to bring its campaign to Toronto’s annual Tamil Fest, one of the largest gatherings of Canada’s Sri Lankan diaspora.

Ravichandradeva, along with a few other volunteers, spent the weekend speaking with festival-goers in Scarborough about the project and encouraging them to come forward with information about deceased or missing loved ones and friends.

“The idea is to collect thorough, scientifically rigorous numbers on the total casualties in the war and present them as a non-partisan, independent organization,” said Michelle Dukich, a data consultant with HRDAG.

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Sheila Coronel et al. - The Atlantic - 19 August, 2019

From the article: “Based on Ball’s calculations, using our data, nearly 3,000 people could have been killed in the three areas we analyzed in the first 18 months of the drug war. That is more than three times the official police count.”

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Cori Crider - Al Jazeera English - 13 June, 2019

The World According to Artificial Intelligence – The Bias in the Machine (Part 2)

Artificial intelligence might be a technological revolution unlike any other, transforming our homes, our work, our lives; but for many – the poor, minority groups, the people deemed to be expendable – their picture remains the same.

Patrick Ball is interviewed: “The question should be, Who bears the cost when a system is wrong?”

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Cori Crider - Al Jazeera English - 13 June, 2019

The World According to Artificial Intelligence: Targeted by Algorithm (Part 1)

The Big Picture: The World According to AI explores how artificial intelligence is being used today, and what it means to those on its receiving end.

Patrick Ball is interviewed: “Machine learning is pretty good at finding elements out of a huge pool of non-elements… But we’ll get a lot of false positives along the way.”

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Sam Levin - Guardian - 29 March 2019

Kristian Lum, the lead statistician at the Human Rights Data Analysis Group, and an expert on algorithmic bias, said she hoped Stanford’s stumble made the institution think more deeply about representation.

“This type of oversight makes me worried that their stated commitment to the other important values and goals – like taking seriously creating AI to serve the ‘collective needs of humanity’ – is also empty PR spin and this will be nothing more than a vanity project for those attached to it,” she wrote in an email.

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Katie Brigham - CNBC - 17 March 2019

Kristian Lum: “The historical over-policing of minority communities has led to a disproportionate number of crimes being recorded by the police in those locations. Historical over-policing is then passed through the algorithm to justify the over-policing of those communities.”

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Katia Savchuk - Pacific Standard - 1 February 2019

Wilkerson was speaking at the inaugural Conference on Fairness, Accountability, and Transparency, a gathering of academics and policymakers working to make the algorithms that govern growing swaths of our lives more just. The woman who’d invited him there was Kristian Lum, the 34-year-old lead statistician at the Human Rights Data Analysis Group, a San Francisco-based non-profit that has spent more than two decades applying advanced statistical models to expose human rights violations around the world. For the past three years, Lum has deployed those methods to tackle an issue closer to home: the growing use of machine learning tools in America’s criminal justice system.

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Mariángela Velásquez - Yahoo Noticias - 13 January 2019

Patrick Ball es un sabueso de la verdad. Ese deseo de descubrir lo que otros quieren ocultar lo ha llevado a desarrollar fórmulas matemáticas para detectar desaparecidos.

Su trabajo consiste en aplicar métodos de medición científica para comprobar violaciones masivas de derechos humanos.

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Our work has been used by truth commissions, international criminal tribunals, and non-governmental human rights organizations. We have worked with partners on projects on five continents.