I’ve had my fair share of poking fun at the internet and its violation of the advertising / brain barrier…
Starting in 2017 with “Enable Stalking” where Mark Zuckerberg hypothetically listened in a van across the street from your bugged home.
Then taking note of reality imitating art with “Somebody’s Watching Me” where it’s no longer floating heads, ravens and the undead that are stalking us but apps, carriers and content providers.
In “Creep Show” we cackled at the notion that consumers actually invite the sharing of personal information as part of a ‘value exchange’.
“I Spy with My Little Air Tag” recounted the unfortunate story of a family from Tennessee who was shocked to discover their 17-year-old daughter’s movements were being tracked around Walt Disney World by an Apple Air Tag.
You should go back and check them all out, especially if you’re a new reader. But for now…
Finally – an algorithm has been used for something other than stalking Us and instead, to discover the identity of the World’s most infamous Stalker.
In 1888 the Whitechapel Murderer, aka: Jack the Ripper, terrorized the streets of East London. The warm buckets of blood he spilled have long since chilled into the coldest case in history; his true identity growing more elusive with the passage of time. Data munching, crime fighting computer programs may change all that, however. With the use of Geographic profiling, researchers have created predictive software to help law enforcement locate repeat offenders from their distribution of crime scenes. Marketers track our physical movement through space (behavior) which when paired with other data (interests/actions/purchases) allow them to build profiles that can be applied to larger cohorts that exhibit similar migrations. Likewise, criminologists are able to glean the psychological profile of a serial killer by plotting the locations of their victims on a map. Wesley English is a ‘GeoProfiler’ and uses such software which “models the psychology of spatial behavior and target selection to recreate an offender’s cognitive map from the distribution of crime scenes“. Locations of crimes can point to an offenders “Anchor Point” or place from which they leave to commit a crime and return to after.
As he begins to build his profile for JTR, English takes a GPS read of each Ripper murder scene. All of the Ripper’s victims were within a few hundred yards of one another and 2 of them (Annie Chapman and Mary Jane Kelly) drank at the Ten Bell’s Pub on Commercial Street shortly before they were killed. Commercial Street cuts between the radius of all 5 evenly distributed mutilations. Layered with data from other murder sprees with known assailants and their commonalities (look-alike targeting for psychopaths), a profile begins to emerge. Serial killers with local knowledge are referred to as “Marauders” because they store a mental map in their deranged minds of the hunting ground they operate in so as to increase their odds of evading detection. Their “Killzone”, as it is referred too, is away from their home but not far enough away as to cause them to lose their spatial advantage. The diminishing frequency of offences with distance, “Distance Decay”, gives the homicide investigation software more data to blend as it shifts attention toward the likely whereabouts of the Ripper Residence. Additional murder-meta-data is supplied by Ripperologist John Bennett. Jack the Ripper was fiendishly cunning as he would commit his savage crimes practically right under the noses of the cops walking their beats on the streets of Whitechapel. This required knowledge of the timing of each policeman’s route as well as the labyrinth of narrow, unlit alleys and passageways in East London which enabled him to vanish like a phantom. On the night of the famous double murder, JTR slit Elizabeth Stride’s throat from ear to ear and then, 45 minutes later, did worse to Catherine Eddowes. When he was done he wiped the blade of his knife with a piece of her skirt (the only piece of physical evidence from the crime spree) and dropped it close to where police would have been swarming the scene of the first crime. Because he was brazen enough to go back toward the active hot spot, investigators are certain he was defiantly headed home. Maps of 1888 Whitechapel were also studied. Looking like a maze from a kids Highlights magazine, escape routes were traced out for each incident and compared.
All of these markers – lat/long of victims, their even distribution, Marauder psychology, Distance Decay, Killzone and common escape routes coalesce to create an image of Jack the Ripper’s likely residence in the form of a color coded probability map… deep red, incidentally, being the highest point of probability. Resembling weather radar, the center of the storm hovers directly over the residence of a notable suspect – one Nathan Kaminsky. Records show that Kaminsky had syphilis which would have been the result of close contact with prostitutes. If left untreated, syphilis can become Neurosyphilis, a disease covering the brain and spinal cord which can cause personality or mood disturbances and eventually death. Kaminsky also had an alias; David Cohen. Cohen was admitted to an asylum 1 month after the final Ripper murder where he died 10 months later. Records from the asylum suggest that Cohen was extremely deranged, violent and held a deep hatred for women. We can’t go back in time (yet) and interview Mr. Kaminsky (which is certainly good for the lore of his hellacious alter ego) but the prospects of computational criminology are on full display in this algorithm for murder. Just imagine what is known about you.
The Whitechapel killings were a Media sensation, selling over one million copies of newspapers with extensive coverage every day, giving a homicidal maniac unparalleled publicity. It could be said that he was the first true media sensation. 134 years ago Today, Sept 8th, marks the discovery of Annie Chapman, the 2nd Jack the Ripper victim. Media has come a long way since then. Instead of Newspapers exploiting the unfortunate demise of poor destitute slum dwellers, AdTech exploits us all. I know, it’s a bit dramatic to associate Jack the Ripper with modern marketing, but it’s interesting nonetheless. The consumer data economy is a Trillion dollar industry that trades in human futures completely in the shadows. There is only ONE person not depicted as a wax figure in Madame Tussauds Wax Museum. That person is Jack the Ripper, who is epitomized only as……..a shadow.