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Microsoft’s new technology will try to predict crimes before they happen

You can’t use it on Windows 10 or Microsoft’s phones yet – and it might never be a commercial product – but the company is apparently working on software that would be able to predict the future accurately. The new app would be able to do more than guess at who will win the next football game, which is one of Cortana’s tricks. The app will be so advanced that it could predict crimes before they happen, similar to what we saw in Minority Report – only without a group of superhuman captives powering it. It could also predict the success of a new Xbox One game, predict box office success, or perform any number of a seemingly limitless number of tasks.

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“It’s all about software that has the ability to predict the future,” Microsoft senior program manager Jeff King said in a webcast with police earlier this year, an event that went unnoticed, according to Fusion.

Obviously, there’s a complex algorithm at play to figure out which inmates are more likely to commit a crime in the future. “Does the offender have a gang affiliation? Are they part of a rehab program? How many violations do they have in jail? How many hours in administrative segregation?” King explained. “Things like that.”

This all sounds pretty exciting, but also sort of scary considering the many ways Microsoft is currently spying on users with help of Windows 10.

The program is still in development stages at this point, Microsoft told the site, and the company only demoed a proof of concept for the time being.

Some people are concerned that such a program, if used by police in the future, might have unwanted side effects. Police might become lazy, on one hand. On the other hand, police might be entitled to show up to someone’s door for no apparent reason. There are also questions related to how a criminal would be treated if a program like this can with relation to social services, surveillance and sentencing.

Even police question the reliability of such programs. While they might work for analyzing and predicting the actions of known criminals, they might not be able to predict crimes performed by individuals with no prior convictions, or who aren’t affiliated with any gangs or known criminal organizations.

“When you break the homicides down, there is not an organized group doing anything. There is not a drug or gang nexus,” Kansas City Police Chief Darryl Forté told the Kansas City Star in late September when detailing a similar product that was not able to predict and stop homicides. “If you look at these individual incidents, how do you stop someone from killing their girlfriend when nobody outside of them knows that there is a problem? How do you keep someone from killing three people because they are jealous?”

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he closely follows the events in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises. Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.