Sunday, June 12, 2005

Psychological E-mail Profiling

I shouldn't do this, but this is one of the dumbest things I ever read and I don't think I we should pay professors anymore.

Apparently, a Queen's University Professor is working with law enforcement to come up with an E-mail analyzing program that uses keyword/phrases to catch criminals.

"Dr. David Skillicorn’s work is based on the idea that when people are trying to hide something, they write differently than people who have nothing to hide."

Supposedly, even the lack of certain words is enough to flag potential criminal activity, the idea being that guilty parties may avoid using certain words like "bomb" that is used in common innocent conversation--ie *I just bombed that test.*

The Criteria
So, engaging in the following "suspicious" E-mail activity will get you caught.

"[The program] examine[s] patterns in who e-mails whom. As an example, in criminal networks it is common to find several people communicating regularly with the same person, but never with each other. This is meant to ensure that if one lawbreaker is caught, he or she is unlikely to lead authorities to too many others. But it can also be a clue to suspicious activity."

I can imagine another scenerio this pattern could be indicative of... like a *popular college student.* But that scenerio is probably rare, right?


Sorry, Lieke... you're going down. It's a good thing you're in Germany right now. I, personally, don't know a fifth of the people on your xanga-subscribers list and our floods of E-mails to you are a smoking gun broadcasting your guilt.

Don't ask questions... It's *Magic*
My personal favorite quote is the Professor's absolvement of all responsibility. He's a mere man who designed a magical program that works in mysterious ways that even he doesn't completely understand.

I wish I were kidding.

"Skillicorn doesn’t know all the ways suspicious e-mails might read differently from innocent ones. The beauty of his approach is that he doesn’t need to know. His software is designed simply to look for messages that are different, based on word frequencies, from the mass of e-mails. It needn’t understand the reasons for the differences."

What? Are you sure he doesn't need to know? It could just be me; if we're sending people to prison, maybe someone should know why.


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