Predictive algorithm and Fight against terrorism


The notion of terrorism reflects many forms of actions and raises heated debates. With its pejorative and criminally reprehensible connotation, terrorism refers to a tactic of violence for political ends to destabilize public opinion and states. This word was used for the first time in 1794 to designate the counter-revolutionaries.

    The fight against terrorism is, since Antiquity a primary objective of State authorities. However, since the 21st century, this form of struggle uses new technologies to ensure greater efficiency.
The current terrorism, often attributed to Daesh fighters of the Islamic State (ISIS), are perceived by the authorities as highly mobile individuals, blending into civil society and using perfectly the Internet, telephony and social networks. These people have seized the rise of new technologies to their advantage, forcing state authorities to adapt to these new practices.

    Identifying and targeting a terrorist is complicated for competent public authorities and they use innovative security technologies such as biometrics and video surveillance. Legislation in many Western countries allows the use of video surveillance equipment in many strategic locations such as transport hubs and relevant infrastructure.

    In an article in « International and Strategic Review » of 2009, security technologies are defined as « intelligent identification, surveillance and protection devices that can be operational in real time to identify and locate hazards and predict probable risks « . This use of technology in the service of security is becoming an international standard in the fight against terrorism.

    As new technologies evolve at breakneck speed, progress in security follows it. The future of the fight against terrorism is moving towards predictive artificial intelligence. The phenomenon of predictive AI refers to the use of an algorithm for mathematically « predicting the future« . 

    These AI tools are now used by many sectors such as justice, marketting and insurance. In the field of the fight against terrorism, these software will help to anticipate the terrorist acts of certain people, classified as potentially dangerous. The contribution of this type of software would be enormous in term of protection of the territory for the public authorities. In view of Steven Spielberg’s 2002 film Minoriry Report, public authorities could then arrest terrorists even before they take action.

    The legal question arises because can one really condemn someone on the sole ground of a forecast given by an algorithm? 

    What about these technologies with regard to the establishment of algorithms? Indeed, to create a predictive algorithm, it’s necessary to put data that will be the elements that will give a risk score of terrorist attack or not. The example of the COMPAS software explains the functioning of predictive algorithms that is used to assess the risk of recidivism of American prisoners.

    Despite the effectiveness of these types of software, we must nevertheless ask the question of the determination of data in the software. Can we really determine the characteristics that give the probability that a person can commit a terrorist act ? These questions seem to be against the fundamental rights of individuals because despite the context of the fight against terrorism that erases the freedoms of individuals in favor of security, we can not arrest someone before he commits something in regard to this. that a software predicts.

    Thus, a balance of light and shadow must be made with regard to the use of predictive software in the fight against terrorism. The fight against terrorism must always be at the center of the concerns of the public authorities, but must not be destructive of the fundamental freedoms, such as that of the personal life of individuals.


Anaïs Cathala
Master 2 Cyberjustice – Promotion 2018-2019

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