Advancing Public Safety and Protecting Privacy

Advancing Public Safety and Protecting Privacy

Lumina Testifies Before the Florida House of Representatives

“How do we leverage the power of technology without sacrificing constitutional liberties?  How do we ensure we are doing everything we can to keep our communities safe without turning our society into the Minority Report?  

These were the opening questions posed by Florida State Representative James Grant at a recent hearing focused on Using Technology to Advance Public Safety and Privacy in the Florida House of Representatives.

Lumina joined a panel of expert witnesses to answer these and other questions from members of the Criminal Justice Subcommittee.  

In addition to Lumina’s Doug Licker and Jessica Dareneau, other panelists included Dr. Russell Baker, CEO & Founder of Psynetix and Wayne A. Logan, a professor of law at Florida State University.

No Standardized Methodology

Beginning on the issue of using technology to keep communities safe, Psynetix’s Baker noted that the signs of violence or potential terrorism are often missed because there is no standardized methodology to collect, report and disseminate crucial information indicative of these potential acts – and that even if the data is available, it becomes siloed.

Lumina expanded on those complications, noting that 93 percent of those carrying out a mass violent attack make threatening communications prior to the event – including on social media –  and that 75 percent of terrorists used the internet to plan an attack.

The Internet is Useful to Everyone…Including Bad Actors

“The internet, it turns out is useful to everyone…and that includes bad actors,” Licker testified. 

“The UN, the FBI and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) support the use of new technologies to help mine the publicly available information on the internet to help prevent, predict and deter attacks in the future,” he continued.

The problem, comes in the mass amounts of data available on the web – some 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are added to the internet daily.  And, constrained resources from law enforcement agencies to analyze the data and respond.

Real-time Detection of Digital Evidence

In the slide presentation, Lumina shared a quote from the RAND Corporation which noted: “Most law-enforcement agencies in the United States, particularly at the state and local level, don’t have a whole lot of capability and technical people to manage and respond to digital evidence more generally, much less real-time detection.”

That’s where technologies like Lumina’s Radiance platform can be valuable for law enforcement.

“The power of our Radiance platform is two-fold – its ability to ingest massive amounts of unstructured, open source data and its real-time ability to analyze that information to predict and prevent organizational risks and threats,” Dareneau said. “It does this through purpose-built, best-in-class algorithms that can overcome the challenges of massive unstructured data ingestion and prioritization.”

The question of each of our publicly available digital footprints, and law enforcement’s ability to use that information in an investigation was widely discussed at the hearing.

Is Privacy Dead?

“Digital dossiers exist today on us all, which law enforcement can and will readily put to use in its work such as by means of computers, patrol cars and even hand-held devices,” Logan testified. “And why should law enforcement not be able to harness the crime control tools enabled by technological advances, such as machine learning targeting massive data sources?”

“In my view, my personal view, they should be able to do so but in a regulated manner,” he continued.

But, what should those regulations look like, and how best to approach the balance between privacy and safety?

Logan noted that the European Union, California and Illinois are all taking steps towards data protection measures, and could be models for Florida to follow.  

Transparency is Key

Dareneau said many of the policies being implemented relate to transparency.

“Transparency is so important, and that is what so many of these other jurisdictions are enacting in their legislation – requirements that you disclose what you are collecting and then how you are using it,” she testified. “So we try to stay on top of that, and make sure our privacy policy and terms includes exactly what we are collecting, how we are using it and who we could provide it to.”

As the hearing ended, Chairman Grant reiterated the work before his subcommittee to understand and delineate between private data and public information.  “This body is committed to acting,” he said.

Committed to Acting

When legislative session begins January 14, 2020, it’s clear that this topic will be a key focus for this subcommittee and the broader legislature. 

As Logan noted, “Technology is really potentially a game changer here. The question is whether it will be permitted, what limitations are going to be put on it and what accountability measures will be put in place. It’s just a different era.  We need to air the potential concerns here, and we need to transparently deliberate them and decide the issues.”

You can watch the hearing and review the materials here.

The Case for See Something, Say Something: 24 Hours at Lumina

The Case for See Something, Say Something: 24 Hours at Lumina

It was any given Tuesday afternoon at Lumina.

And then the S4 alert came. 

(S4 is a mobile app that allows people to report concerning behaviors in real time. It’s short for See Something, Say Something).

The first alert: Tuesday Afternoon 

This alert was from a high school student. 

The student expressed concern that a best friend was at risk for suicide. 

It turns out that the two students had recently lost another close friend to suicide.  Since that time, the friend at risk had been distant and negative, and showed other warning signs, which you can read more about from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

The student who sent the S4 alert wanted to make sure the best friend got help before it was too late. 

Not surprisingly, the student wished to remain anonymous.  But the student shared the school information and the name of the friend.  Our S4 app also validated the location from which the alert was sent.

80% of those considering suicide give some sign of their intentions

This report was a serious concern.  Statistics show that 80% of those considering suicide give some sign of their intentions, and often those signs are communicated to the people closest to them.

We acted immediately, calling the school and sharing the information with the administration, who confirmed the recent suicide and thanked us for the report.

A person in time of crisis would get the help they need. 

The second alert:  Wednesday late morning

Just 20 hours later, we received another S4 alert.

This one was different. 

The person reporting the concern had innocently moved a postal package for a neighbor.  Then, the person noticed that the package had a marking indicating that it was from a company that sells bulletproof armor.

What to do with this information?  Buying armor isn’t illegal.  But, why was this neighbor concerned?  Was there something else to the report?

More than 75% of the attackers in mass violence events exhibit concerning behaviors

According to the U.S. Secret Service’s analysis of Mass Attacks in Public Spaces last year,  78% of the attackers in mass violence events exhibited behaviors that caused concern in others.

We decided to do more research. 

We ran the name of the subject the package was delivered to through our Radiance Open Source platform, OS-INT

Through a search of all the open source data on the Internet, OS-INT found publicly available social media images of the subject holding an IED, raising concerns that perhaps there was more to investigate.

We sent the S4 report, and the findings from OS-INT to the authorities, so they could determine appropriate next steps.

The third report:  Wednesday afternoon

While we were working the bulletproof armor S4, another alert came in.

Again, it was a report concerning potential mass violence.

But this time, it was at a school.

The report indicated that a student had discussed bringing a gun to school the next day. The report included the student’s name, and the school that he attended.

93% of the attackers in mass violence events made threatening or concerning communications

The same Secret Service report we mentioned previously, tells us that of the mass attacks in 2018, 93% of attackers made threatening or concerning communications prior to the act.

That is why – like the bulletproof armor S4 report – we ran the student’s name through Radiance OS-INT. 

Radiance quickly sent us a link to a publicly available YouTube channel where a person with the same name as the student shows himself executing a shooting rampage in a video game.  We thought this was important additional information to share with the local authorities.

Within minutes, we called the police, and learned they had received another tip surrounding the same student and were following up on the reports.

The power of S4

When we launched our S4 app, we knew the value it would bring to our clients as they work to keep their school and corporate campuses safe.

But we also understood the potential power it had for the broader public.

We knew we had to make the app available to others.  And it had to be free of charge.

Since making our app available, we have had thousands of downloads and hundreds of reports.

The truth is, we never like it when those reports come in. The thought that someone might want to do harm to themselves, or to others, keeps us up at night.

Be the light in your community

But, we know See Something, Say Something works.  And we’re committed to using our technology to help make a difference.

We encourage you to do the same.

Download the app today at the App Store or from Google Play, and help be the light in your community.

And, if you are in a suicide crisis, or know someone who is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255.

Assessing Safety Protocols in Public Venues

Assessing Safety Protocols in Public Venues

As the summer draws to a close and students return to campus, schools across the country are incorporating active shooter response training into their procedures and protocols.  The drills are just one component of overall safety preparedness efforts, being undertaken at the state, federal and local levels.

STRONG Ohio Plan Includes Social Media Scans

While response trainings on school campuses have become an increasingly common practice, the focus is even more pronounced in light of the recent mass shooting attacks in Dayton and El Paso.

In response to the shootings in Ohio, Governor Mike DeWine unveiled his STRONG Ohio plan, designed to reduce gun violence. The state created a School Safety Center, which will review school emergency management plans and offer risk threat and safety assessments, consolidate school safety resources on saferschools.ohio.gov, promote the use of a tip line to anonymously report suspected threats and scan social media and websites to identify people suggesting acts of violence. 

Increased Arrests for Threatening Comments

Increased precautions aren’t just being taken at schools, and for good reason.  Following those tragic events, the FBI ordered a new threat assessment to thwart future mass attacks in the country.

Since that time, more than 25 people have been arrested for making threats to commit mass shootings – and that number does not include the three mall shooting scares in California over the weekend.

Public Venues Enhancing Security and Reviewing Response Plans

Sports venues like the Raven’s M&T Bank, and Camden Yard, home to the Orioles, announced enhanced security measures in August and retailers across the country are reviewing their safety procedures, which as Target noted in a public statement include team member training, partnerships with law enforcement and the use of technology.

Use of technology is not unique to private corporations.  Even before the recent shootings, the FBI issued a request for proposal for a social media early alerting to mitigate multifaceted threats. 

Tips for Personal Safety

The Department of Homeland Security offers tips for all of us to follow when we’re in public locations.

  • Be Prepared: Take notice of surroundings and identify potential emergency exits. Be aware of unusual behaviors and report suspicious activities to security or law enforcement.
  • Take Action: If an attack occurs, run to the nearest exit and conceal yourself while moving away from the dangerous activity. If you can’t exit to a secure area, protect yourself by seeking cover.
  • Assist and React: Call 9-1-1, remain alert and stay aware of the situation. Help with first aid when it is safe, and follow instructions once law enforcement arrives.

Part of your preparation can include downloading for free Lumina’s See Something Say Something app. It’s a crowd-sourced, mobile application that allows users to confidentially report concerns in real time.  

You can learn more about S4 and download it here. It’s one part of our comprehensive, AI-driven risk management platform, Radiance.

13 Reasons Why, The Contagion Effect and the Role of AI in Suicide Intervention

13 Reasons Why, The Contagion Effect and the Role of AI in Suicide Intervention

The Contagion Effect Part 1:
What is the impact of news coverage on suicidal behaviors?

Netflix’s recent decision to remove the controversial scene of a student committing suicide in its series, 13 Reasons Why, came nearly two years after mental health care professionals first approached the company raising concerns about what is called the “contagion effect.”  

In other words, the potential for an increase in teen suicide, inspired by the show.

The idea of the contagion effect is not new, and is well chronicled by the National Academies Press in a 2013 workshop summary.

Celebrity Suicides and Entertainment Media

Although experts say that it is difficult to prove that news coverage or entertainment media caused a person to commit suicide, studies do show correlation. 

Consider the concerning trends related to several high-profile celebrity suicides.

For example, after the death of Robin Williams in 2014, there was an almost 10 percent increase in deaths by suicide. Additionally, after the suicides of Soundgarden’s lead singer Chris Cornell and subsequent suicide of his friend, the lead singer from Linkin Park, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800-273-8255) received a 14 percent increase in calls.

Not surprisingly, several studies have been conducted regarding the impact of 13 Reasons Why on teen suicide.  While the findings varied, one report, published in the Journal of American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, found a 28.9 percent increase in suicide rates in young males the month after the show first aired.  Over the next nine months, the researchers found that there were 200 more suicides than expected.

The Contagion Effect Part 2: 
What can we learn from social media and the Internet?

Research suggests that Internet searches mirror real world suicide rates.   A research letter published in JAMA Internal Medicine found there were one million (19 percent) more Internet searches about suicide after 13 Reasons Why aired. Searches included “how to commit suicide” (26 percent), “how to kill yourself” (9 percent), and “commit suicide” (18 percent).  Some of the increased searches were for seeking help—including “suicide hotlines” (12 percent) and “suicide prevention” (23 percent). In fact, the University of Manchester’s National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Safety in mental health found that  25 percent of youth who died by suicide conducted a suicide-related Internet search shortly before their deaths.

In addition to the increased number of Internet searches, the research firm Fizziology found that in its first week of airing, 13 Reasons became the most tweeted about series in Netflix history with more than 3.5 million tweets.  The show also generated a variety of social memes, including ones that mocked the character and made light of the experiences that led to her suicide.  For students in crisis, the added exposure to negative social media is another difficult input to process. 

Implications for Schools and Campuses

Increased Internet searches and social media engagement aren’t surprising results, considering the popularity of the series with teens.  In fact a study by the Pew Research Center, found that 95 percent of teens have access to a smartphone and 45 percent say they are online ‘almost constantly.’   

According to research published in the journals Crisis and The American Journal of Public Health, real-time monitoring of online behavior can be a viable tool for assessing suicide risk factors on a large scale. This research also concludes that social media provides a channel that may allow others to intervene following an expression of suicidal thoughts online.

So, what does all of this mean for schools and campuses charged with preventing youth suicide and keeping their students safe?

Recognizing the Warning Signs

In response to the show, The National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) has provided guidance for educators in how to engage in supportive conversations with students and provide resources to those in need.  They encourage making parents, teachers, and students aware of suicide risk warning signs, taking warning signs seriously, and establish a confidential reporting mechanism for students.

Recognizing that those warning signs may be displayed on students’ social channels, one challenge is the sheer amount of data school counselors would have to search through to identify concerning trends with their students.  The 3.5 million tweets for 13 Reasons why seems manageable in the context of the 2.5 quintillion bytes of data added to the web each day.

AI Technologies and Assessing Risk

AI-driven Radiance provides two important tools in helping keep campuses safe and predict and prevent student suicide.

Radiance’s Open Source Intelligence (OS-INT) scours all open source data across the entire Internet, looking for behavioral affinities related to suicide and other threats to students. For suicide ideation alone, OS-INT performs more than 7,000 searches of publicly available web data, and returns prioritized results in five minutes.  A manual search on a traditional web engine would take more than three weeks for one person to complete.

OS-INT is further amplified with Radiance’s Human Intelligence (HUM-INT), which is powered by the See Something Say Something (S4) app. This app provides the confidential mechanism recommended by NASP.

Eight out of ten people considering suicide give some sign of their intentions, and the S4 app allows students to confidentially share concerns about their classmates in real time, providing school administrators with early insights to support those in need.

To learn more about Lumina’s Radiance School Offer visit: https://luminaanalytics.com/radiance/

To learn more about the National Suicide Prevention hotline visit: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

What We Know About School Shooters Might Help Prevent the Next Attack

What We Know About School Shooters Might Help Prevent the Next Attack

Since 2011, the rate of mass shootings has more than tripled in the United States and schools have frequently been the target. While added physical security measures are a step towards preventing these attacks from happening on campuses, there is more we can do. Identifying a school shooter before their plans turn into action is the best method of prevention.

The FBI has found that for shooters under the age of 18, peers and teachers were more likely to observe concerning behavior than family members. To get more people to report concerning behavior, we have to know what to look out for. Here is what we know about school shooters from the data.

They experience high levels of stress.

A common characteristic found in high risk individuals was the failure to navigate major stressors in their lives. One of the top ranked stressors was mental health (not mental illness) in 62% of those analyzed.

When it comes to providing students with resources for their mental health, most schools are underfunded. Of those analyzed, only 53% of schools reported they provided training on referral strategies for students with signs of mental health disorders. This presents a great area for improvement and could prove to be more effective than physical security measures.

There are other stressors that can be an identified as well. Some of these included “conflict at school”, which was present in 22% of incidents, and conflict with friends or peers which was present in 29% of shooters.

They display concerning behavior.

Most schools fail to observe concerning behaviors or develop intervention strategies if noticed.

First Instance of Concerning Behavior

Figure 9: James Silver, Andre Simons, and Sarah Craun, “A Study of the Pre-Attack Behaviors of Active Shooters in The United States Between 2000 and 2013.

According to the most recent U.S. Department of Education’s Indicators of School Crime and Safety study, only 48% of schools reported providing training on the early warning signs of violent student behaviorYet teachers still observed concerning behavior 75% of the time. Sadly, however, 83% of the time the behavior was only communicated to the shooter, or nothing was done (54%).

These facts bring up many more questions than answers. How risk adverse should administrators be when reporting concerning behavior? How do you report behavior without creating further grievances?  Regardless of your unique approach for your institution and community, the time to be aware, alert, and prepared to act is before an attack not just during and after. 

They plan ahead.

The FBI’s study found that 77% of shooters will take a week or longer to plan their attack, and 46% spend a week or longer preparing. These activities can produce common identifiable behaviors and help raise the red flag.

Time Spent Planning

Figure 6: James Silver, Andre Simons, and Sarah Craun, “A Study of the Pre-Attack Behaviors of Active Shooters in The United States Between 2000 and 2013.

They leak information.

An information leak by the potential shooter is another commonly observed behavior. In fact, it was found that they leaked their intentions about 56% of the time.

A good majority of these information leaks take place in a student or employee’s digital lives. These online leaks often go unnoticed or unheard by those who could potentially intervene. This brings to light the importance of taking what individuals say, even if online, seriously.

Yet, only 6% of schools reported that staff resources were used to address cyberbullying. Shockingly, only 12% of schools reported that cyberbullying happened at least once a week at school or away, which either reflects underreporting, schools are under-resourced in monitoring and addressing the issue, or that many school are oblivious to the problem.

They target familiar places.

A known connection to the location of the attack is another factor that comes into play. In 73% of cases the shooter had a known connection to the location of attack. Almost all perpetrators under 18 (88%) targeted a school or a former school.

Venn diagram of relationship between random and targeted victims

Figure 6: James Silver, Andre Simons, and Sarah Craun, “A Study of the Pre-Attack Behaviors of Active Shooters in The United States Between 2000 and 2013.

Looking into this further, in 64% of cases, at least one victim was specifically targeted by the shooter. In cases where a primary grievance could be identified, the most common was adverse interpersonal action against the shooter. This means that shooters commonly target individuals they have grievances with: students, teacher, or administration.

Identifying a potential shooter before an incident can be the difference between a life and death situation. With the use of predictive analytics, the potential to identify these patterns is more advanced than ever. School shootings and school security have been under-researched for decades. Lumina Analytics has been building and perfecting these exact technological tools to help keep schools safe.

Predicting and Preventing Suicide Through AI

Predicting and Preventing Suicide Through AI

It’s not always easy for young people to articulate their problems. A student who regularly attends class and receives good grades could also be fighting an addiction. A teen constantly smiling for Instagram photos could actually be depressed. For friends and family of the person struggling, recognizing the warning signs of distress might not come easily.

 

Artificial intelligence can act as a voice for people dealing with various internal issues. It can also notify loved ones or even officials when a person needs help. The following two stories serve as examples of potential tragedies that could be avoided thanks to artificial intelligence:

 

Using Artificial Intelligence to Fight Cyber Bullying

Hailey was in her dorm room staring at her phone. A stranger had posted another fake story about her. Hailey knew if she reported it, the imposter would just create a new account or use a website that allows anonymous posts.

Hailey is one of more than 20% of college students being cyberbullied. She struggled with bullying and depression throughout her first two years of college before her friends and family were able to help her, but she could have gotten help a lot sooner with artificial intelligence. As soon as the menacing messages appeared, cutting-edge predictive analytics paired with human analysis could have combatted the issue much earlier.

 

Catch Suicidal Tendencies Early with Artificial Intelligence

Ana had been a star student in high school. She held a part-time job, ran track and was in a serious relationship. During her freshman year of college, she became increasingly depressed. One night she texted heart emojis to all her friends, wrote a goodbye letter to her parents, and attempted suicide. Ana’s friends found her and called 911 in time.

While she was lucky, suicide has risen to become the second-leading cause of death among Ana’s age group. Ana, and so many others like her, could have benefited from help and treatment as soon as predictive analytics powered by artificial intelligence flagged her online searches and habits as possible suicidal tendencies.

 

Meet Radiance.

As mental health problems become more common, and troubling behavior migrates online where it is harder to identify using traditional methods, many schools are struggling to adapt. To face these new challenges, innovative solutions are needed.

What if a sophisticated system could immediately alert student services to the problems their students face, like what should have happened for Hailey and Ana. The idea of counselors and health care professionals being guided to students’ darkest struggles is not some distant future. It’s possible today thanks to Lumina – a Predictive Analytics firm which uses artificial intelligence and open-source data to combat some of society’s most pressing issues. Powered by cutting-edge artificial intelligence and human analysis, Lumina’s newest solution can identify harmful behavior online and alert people who can help.

By working with schools, Lumina can help counselors, student services, and even security officers adapt to new digital landscapes related to bullying, mental health, drug misuse, and other challenges. With new threats emerging every day, taking full advantage of artificial intelligence will allow schools to meet these challenges head-on.