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Forensic genealogy is the most powerful tool that investigators have gained in the 21st century, but its quick adoption and lack of oversight have led to some serious debates around privacy and due process.
Perhaps nothing has changed the modern investigative procedure as much as mobile forensics. A subset of digital forensics, mobile forensics involves the retrieval of data from a mobile device, typically a cell phone or tablet, but potentially a smartwatch, camera, GPS device, or drone.
Cognitive science has already been integrated with several other high-risk fields such as medicine, air traffic control, and nuclear power. But a series of failures within the forensic community—many of which came into view with the advent of DNA profiling—have now demonstrated the need for cognitive research into forensic practices, too.
As a society, we wave off these low conviction rates as cold cases, but often, the victim’s rape kit was never tested in the first place. According to the Joyful Heart Foundation’s “End the Backlog” team, there is a backlog of untested rape kits in the hundreds of thousands that are sitting in police and crime lab storage facilities across the country.
Today, deep convolutional neural networks (DCNNs), which are trained on millions of face images from thousands of people, can recognize faces in highly-variable, low-quality images. But modern facial forensics won’t become an equitable and acceptable practice until the tech, and the people behind the tech, acknowledge their shortcomings head-on.
In order to catch tomorrow’s killers and to protect the innocent, forensics experts will need to look for critical evidence in the places it’s now most likely to be found: a stray email address, a grainy clip of surveillance footage, a single incriminating IP address pulled from a list of countless others.
Podcasts like Serial set a new bar for the genre, and suddenly, true crime podcasts weren’t just guilty pleasures: they were Peabody-winning stories that could have an impact on precisely the topics that they were exploring.
The hardware and skills of the digital forensics discipline are constantly evolving, requiring vigilant upkeep. As a result, many public sector laboratories are overburdened, and it’s creating a serious backlog. The private sector may have the answer.