Moral Maze

The boss of Ryanair has been criticised for saying that airport security checks should focus on Muslim men who are travelling alone, because they pose the biggest terror threat. The Muslim Council of Britain said Michael O'Leary's comments were "racist and discriminatory". Profiling is the practice of categorising people and predicting their behaviour on the basis of particular characteristics. We're profiled all the time by businesses and insurance companies with the help of computer algorithms. That same technology has been piloted by police and will now be used to identify low-level offenders who are deemed likely to go on to commit "high-harm" crimes, perhaps involving knives and guns. Is it right to target specific groups on the theory that they are statistically more likely to commit certain crimes? Civil liberty watchdogs argue that such ‘pre-crime’ profiling not only violates everyone’s civil rights, but fosters alienation and hostility in marginalised communities. Supporters of ‘data analytics’ believe that, on the contrary, it can eliminate all bias and human error from these judgments. There’s a wider debate about the balance between public safety and trust. Should we worry that these preventative measures are eroding our goodwill towards authority and each other? There are proposals to introduce airport-style security checks in ever more areas of our lives, from concert halls to places of worship. Security campaigners say it’s a necessary step towards making us all that little bit safer. Libertarians call it an over-reaction to a statistically-negligible threat. It is, they say, allowing the criminals to dictate how we live our lives. With Nick Aldworth, Tom Chivers, Dr Adam Elliott-Cooper and Tom McNeil.

Producer: Dan Tierney.

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