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Profiling

PROFILING

Online profiling generated heated opinions for both pro and con as e-commerce achieved prominence in the late 1990s and early 2000s. A method by which online businesses trace browsing and shopping habits of Internet users and compile detailed information files for future marketing purposes, online profiling was seen at one and the same time as an invaluable marketing tool and an affront to Internet users' expectation of privacy.

The most obvious and overt way in which personal data is collected electronically is via online forms, which are often required when making a purchase or downloading software. Items such as names, e-mail addresses, and so on are stored in the site owner's database for future reference. Usually, such companies maintain privacy policies, available to customers, that spell out exactly what will and will not be done with accumulated information.

Other methods of online profiling are far more covert, however. One of the main profiling vehicles employed in the 1990s and early 2000s worked in concert with the banner advertisement. Many companies operate their Web sites via the click-through model. In these cases, the Web site garners some or all of its revenue by selling space on their pages to other companies, who advertise on the pages with banner adslarge graphics that promote the company and provide a link to its Web site. Embedded in many banner ads are "cookies," coded identifiers that are shot into the Web surfer's hard drive and which allow the owner of the banner ad to track subsequent movement on the Web for the purposes of building comprehensive profiles of individuals. Cookies record the universal resource locator (URL) addresses that the Web user visits, and profilers infer from these online movements some general characteristics about the customer. For instance, if a cookie records visitations to several Web sites relating to children's clothing and education, the profiler may conclude that the user is a parent; repeated visits to online bookstores and literary sites would lead the profiler to conclude that the user is an avid reader. After compiling such information, the profiler either uses this information to target specific advertisements to the customer or sells the profile to other companiesin this example, to bookstores and children's outlets.

In these cases, individuals are almost entirely unaware that any profiling is occurring, and privacy advocates charge that this practice, even when used benignly, represents a potentially dangerous breach of individual privacy. In the late 1990s, privacy and consumer groups began to organize against these practices. For instance, in 1999 consumers brought a class-action lawsuit against Seattle-based Real Net-works, claiming that the company failed to notify customers who had downloaded its free music-listening software program that it was tracking their listening habits. RealNetworks settled the lawsuit by fixing the software to eliminate its ability to profile users and by issuing an apology.

Advertisers insist that online profiling is a cornerstone of their business, and they put a proconsumer spin on the practice, arguing that profiling ensures that they can target advertisements in such a manner as to most benefit customers by ensuring that they can acquire what they want when they want. In this way, they hold, the consumer society is made even more efficient, since advertising spending goes to its optimal location. By improving the shopping experience, moreover, e-commerce players hold that profiling ensures continued growth in e-commerce to the advantage of all businesses and the economy as a whole.

So, for instance, online retailers can notify select customers of upcoming sales in product areas of particular interest to those customers. Additionally, companies might be more able to sell off older inventory by targeting specific customers with special reduced prices. The logic behind these kinds of arguments holds that the more information in circulation, the better for all involved.

Beyond simply compiling information, online profilers have launched a new industry in the sale of accumulated information to other companies. By virtue of implementing the systems to conduct profiling, the profiler essentially becomes the owner of that information and may choose to profit from it directly or by selling it to interested parties. The individuals profiled, however, have no control over what happens to the information compiled on them. To hedge against a rising backlash toward the practice of online profiling, many companies choose to provide opt-out features, allowing users to prohibit the use of their information after registering for a software download or filling out an online subscription.

According to the Washington, D.C.-based Electronic Privacy Information Center, online profiling is largely invisible to the public. That is, most individual shoppers and Web surfers are unaware of how much and what kind of information about them is being compiled and analyzed. This is one of the primary alarms for privacy advocacy groups; if individuals remain in the dark about online profiling, they are in a poor position to decide for themselves whether engaging in Internet-based shopping and other activities is worth the price they have to pay in lost privacy.

A 1999 report by the Pew Internet and American Life Project found that fully 86 percent of Internet users worried that businesses, governments, or other entities could acquire information about them or their families without their knowledge or permission. These fears, especially prevalent in the United States where the expectation and valuing of privacy run especially high, meant that businesses wishing to continue utilizing this practice had to tread lightly and not give off the impression to customers of any sort of dishonest or underhanded profiling. The same study, however, revealed that only 10 percent of all online users had disabled cookies in their Web browser, while 56 percent of users weren't even aware of the existence of cookies or what they do.

In 2000, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued a report on online profiling calling for the practice to be informed by five "core fair information practice principles": notice, choice, access, security, and enforcement. In other words:

  • Web sites should be bound to disclose their profiling practices.
  • Consumers should be given the chance to opt out of the practice or at least have a say in how the information is used.
  • Once information is collected, profiled individuals should have access to their profile.
  • The profile should be secured from unauthorized viewers.
  • Enforcement mechanisms should be in place to ensure that Web sites meet their own requirements regarding their profiling practices.

The most ominous possibilities of online profiling remain a part of privacy advocates' critiques of the practice. Such critics fear that profiling conjures visions of Big Brother forever monitoring individuals' behavior. Relatedly, critics worried that such information in the hands of governments, corporations, or other entities could potentially be used for ill purposes. For instance, critics point out that profiling could be used to identify political beliefs, sexual orientation or tastes, medical information, religious affiliation, or other behaviors. Critics worry that, unless kept in check, such practices could lead to widespread discrimination or otherwise undermine democracy and civil liberties.

FURTHER READING:

Berners-Lee, Tim, and Mark Fischetti. Weaving the Web: The Original Design and Ultimate Destiny of the World Wide Web by its Inventor. San Francisco, CA: HarperCollins, 1999.

Bayan, Ruby. "Privacy Means Knowing Your Cookies." Link-up, January/February, 2001.

Cantos, Lisa, et al. "FTC Releases Online Profiling Report." Intellectual Property & Technology Law Journal, October, 2000.

Tanaka, Jennifer. "Getting Personal." Newsweek, November 22, 1999.

Thibodeau, Patrick. "Online Profiling." Computerworld, September 18, 2000.

SEE ALSO: Affiliate Model; Banner Ads; DoubleClick Inc.; Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC); Privacy: Issues, Policies, Statements; Weblining

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"Profiling." Gale Encyclopedia of E-Commerce. . Encyclopedia.com. 22 Jun. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Profiling." Gale Encyclopedia of E-Commerce. . Encyclopedia.com. (June 22, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/economics/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/profiling

"Profiling." Gale Encyclopedia of E-Commerce. . Retrieved June 22, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/economics/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/profiling

Profiling

Profiling

JUDSON KNIGHT

Profiling is the process of developing descriptions of the traits and characteristics of unknown offenders in specific criminal cases. It is often used in situations for which authorities have no likely suspect. There are two basic varieties of profiling: inductive, which involves the development of a profile based on known psychological typology; and deductive profiling, which reasons exclusively from the details of the victim and crime scene to develop a unique profile. Profiling as a law enforcement tool emerged in the late 1960s, and today, the leading entity engaged in profiling is the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime (NCAVC) of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

Profiling should not be confused with racial profiling. Racial profiling, a topic surrounded with considerable controversy, came to the forefront in the late 1980s and 1990s, when a number of activists and social scientists maintained that law enforcement officials tended to single out African Americans, particularly young males, for arrest and abuse. After the September, 2001, terrorist attacks, random searches and other forms of attention directed toward against Middle Eastern males were also decried in some quarters as racial profiling.

In contrast to the socially explosive topic of racial profiling, criminal profilingwhile it may be controversial among law enforcement authorities and forensic scientists, not all of whom agree on its merits or the proper approach to itis not controversial in society at large. In fact, television programs concerning crime, as well as dramatic portrayals in popular films have raised considerable public interest in profiling. Thanks to this interest, leading profilers are well-known outside the law-enforcement community.

Misconceptions. Indicative of this popularity was the prominence given to profiling opportunities on a frequently asked questions (FAQ) page in the employment section of the FBI's Web site in 2003. Alone among FBI specialties, profiling was featured with the question "I just want to be an FBI 'profiler.' Where do I begin the application process?" As the bureau noted in its response, "You first need to realize the FBI does not have a job called 'Profiler.'" The answer went on to discuss the NCAVC, located at FBI headquarters in Quantico, Virginia. The FBI also noted on the site that "these FBI Special Agents [involved in profiling] don't get vibes or experience psychic flashes while walking around fresh crime scenes. [Instead, profiling] is an exciting world of investigation and research "

Two varieties of profiling. Criminal profiling originated from the work of FBI special agents Howard Teten and Pat Mullany in the late 1960s. It is especially used in cases involving serial killers, who usually are not personally acquainted with their victims. Most murders involve people who know one another, and in most murder investigations, likely suspects can be readily identified. For example, if a married woman is murdered, her husband often quickly becomes the focus of police investigation. If, however, there is nothing to suggest that a victim has been murdered by someone he or she knows, or if the victim's identity is unknown, profiling may be necessary in order to develop a set of leads for investigators.

Criminal profilers make use of two types of reasoning, which, in the view of some profiling experts, constitute two schools of thought. Inductive criminal profiling, like the larger concept of induction in the philosophical discipline of epistemology (which is concerned with the nature of knowledge) develops its portrait of a suspect based on the results gathered from other crime scenes. Inductive criminal profiles draw on formal and informal studies of known criminals, on the experience of the profiler, and on publicly available data sources, to provide guidance.

By contrast, deductive criminal profiling relies purely on information relating to the crime scene, the victim, and the evidence. Instead of drawing on the facts of other crimes, the deductive profile draws only on the information relating to the crime in question. For instance, if a search of the crime scene reveals that the killer had smoked an expensive variety of cigar, this would lead the deductive profiler to posit that the killer was wealthy and probably well educated. The profiler working through pure deduction would not, however, seek to compare this fact with information on other killers in the past who had smoked expensive cigars.

NCAVC and VICAP. FBI profilers are supervisory special agents with NCAVC. In order to be considered for the program, an individual must have served as an FBI special agent for three years. However, due to high competition for placement in the program, individuals selected usually have eight to 10 years of experience with the bureau. Newly assigned personnel typically undergo a structured training program of more than 500 hours. Alongside these special agents work other, civilian, personnel in positions that include intelligence research specialist, violent crime resource specialist, and crime analyst. It is their job to research violent crime from a law enforcement perspective, and to provide support to NCAVC special agents.

In addition to developing criminal profiles, NCAVC provides major case management advice and threat assessment services to law-enforcement officials around the nation and the world. Special agents may also provide law enforcement officials with strategies for investigation, interviewing, and prosecution. Among the services provided by NCAVC to the law enforcement community at large is VICAP, the Violent Criminal Apprehension Program.

VICAP is a nationwide data information center tasked with collecting, collating, and analyzing information on violent crimes, particularly murder. Cases eligible for VICAP include solved or unsolved homicides or attempts, especially ones involving an abduction; apparently random, motiveless, or sexually oriented homicides; murders that are known or suspected to be part of a series (i.e., serial murder); unresolved missing persons cases, particularly those in which foul play is suspected; and unidentified dead bodies for whom the manner of death is known or suspected to be homicide.

Local law enforcement agencies participating in VICAP are able to draw on its information database in solving crimes. For example, if a murder were committed with a rare variety of handmade pistol, VICAP could be consulted for information on other cases involving such a weapon. Once a case has been entered into the VICAP database, it is compared continually against all other entries on the basis of certain aspects of the crime. VICAP has been used to solve a number of homicides nationwide.

FURTHER READING:

BOOKS:

Ainsworth, Peter B. Offender Profiling and Crime Analysis. Portland, OR: Willan, 2001.

Evans, Collin. The Casebook of Forensic Detection: How Science Solved 100 of the World's Most Baffling Crimes. New York: Wiley, 1996.

Holmes, Ronald M. Profiling Violent Crimes: An Investigative Tool. Newbury Park, England: Sage Publications, 1989.

Turvey, Brent E. Criminal Profiling: An Introduction to Behavioral Evidence Analysis. San Diego, CA: Academic Press, 1999.

ELECTRONIC:

Federal Bureau of Investigation. <http://www.fbi.gov> (May 4, 2003).

SEE ALSO

FBI (United States Federal Bureau of Investigation)
Forensic Science
Intelligence and Counter-Espionage Careers
Justice Department, United States

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Profiling

Profiling

Profiling is the process of developing descriptions of the traits and characteristics of unknown offenders in specific criminal cases. It is often used in situations for which authorities have no likely suspect. There are two basic varieties of profiling: inductive, which involves the development of a profile based on known psychological typology; and deductive, which reasons exclusively from the details of the victim and crime scene to develop a unique profile. Profiling as a law enforcement tool emerged in the late 1960s, and today, the leading entity engaged in profiling is the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime (NCAVC) of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI ).

Profiling should not be confused with racial profiling. Racial profiling, a topic surrounded with considerable controversy, came to the forefront in the late 1980s and 1990s, when a number of activists and social scientists maintained that law enforcement officials tended to single out African Americans, particularly young males, for arrest and abuse. After the September 2001, terrorist attacks, random searches and other forms of attention directed against Middle Eastern males were also dubbed in some quarters as racial profiling.

Criminal profiling is still controversial among law enforcement authorities and forensic scientists, not all of whom agree on its merits or on the proper approach to obtaining a profile. However, profiling is acceptable by the general public. In fact, television programs concerning crime, as well as dramatic portrayals in popular films have raised considerable public interest in profiling. Thanks to this interest, leading profilers are well-known outside the law-enforcement community.

Indicative of this popularity was the attention given to profiling opportunities on a frequently asked questions (FAQ) page in the employment section of the FBI's Web site in 2003. Alone among FBI specialties, profiling was featured with the question "I just want to be a FBI 'profiler.' Where do I begin the application process?" As the bureau noted in its response, "You first need to realize the FBI does not have a job called 'Profiler."' The answer went on to discuss the NCAVC, located at FBI headquarters in Quantico, Virginia. The FBI also noted on the site that "These FBI Special Agents [involved in profiling] don't get vibes or experience psychic flashes while walking around fresh crime scenes. [Instead, profiling] is an exciting world of investigation and research. ..."

Criminal profiling originated from the work of FBI special agents Howard Teten and Pat Mullany in the late 1960s. It is especially used in cases involving serial killers , who usually are not personally acquainted with their victims. Most murders involve people who know one another, and in most murder investigations, likely suspects can be readily identified. For example, if a married woman is murdered, her husband often quickly becomes the focus of police investigation. If, however, there is nothing to suggest that a victim has been murdered by someone he or she knows, or if the victim's identity is unknown, profiling may be necessary in order to develop a set of leads for investigators.

Criminal profilers make use of two types of reasoning, which, in the view of some profiling experts, constitute two schools of thought. Inductive criminal profiling, like the larger concept of induction in the philosophical discipline of epistemology (which is concerned with the nature of knowledge) develops its portrait of a suspect based on the results gathered from other crime scenes. Inductive criminal profiles draw on formal and informal studies of known criminals, on the experience of the profiler, and on publicly available data sources, to provide guidance.

By contrast, deductive criminal profiling relies purely on information relating to the crime scene, the victim, and the evidence . Instead of drawing on the facts of other crimes, the deductive profile draws only on the information relating to the crime in question. For instance, if a search of the crime scene reveals that the killer had smoked an expensive variety of cigar, this would lead the deductive profiler to presume that the killer was wealthy and probably well educated. The profiler working through pure deduction would not, however, seek to compare this fact with information on other killers in the past who had smoked expensive cigars.

FBI profilers are supervisory special agents with NCAVC. In order to be considered for the program, an individual must have served as an FBI special agent for three years. However, due to high competition for placement in the program, individuals selected usually have eight to ten years of experience with the bureau. Newly assigned personnel typically undergo a structured training program of more than five hundred hours. Alongside these special agents work other, civilian, personnel in positions that include intelligence research specialists, violent crime resource specialists, and crime analysts. It is their job to research violent crime from a law enforcement perspective, and to provide support to NCAVC special agents.

In addition to developing criminal profiles, NCAVC provides major case management advice and threat assessment services to law-enforcement officials around the nation and the world. Special agents may also provide law enforcement officials with strategies for investigation, interviewing, and prosecution. Among the services provided by NCAVC to the law enforcement community at large is VICAP, the Violent Criminal Apprehension Program. VICAP is a nationwide data information center tasked with collecting, collating, and analyzing information on violent crimes, particularly murder. Cases eligible for VICAP include solved or unsolved homicides or attempts, especially ones involving an abduction; apparently random, motiveless, or sexually oriented homicides; murders that are known or suspected to be part of a series (i.e., serial murder); unresolved missing persons cases, particularly those in which foul play is suspected; and unidentified dead bodies for whom the manner of death is known or suspected to be homicide.

Local law enforcement agencies participating in VICAP are able to draw on its information database in solving crimes. For example, if a murder was committed with a rare variety of handmade pistol, VICAP could be consulted for information on other cases involving such a weapon. Once a case has been entered into the VICAP database, it is compared continually against all other entries on the basis of certain aspects of the crime. VICAP has been used to solve a number of homicides nationwide.

see also FBI (United States Federal Bureau of Investigation); Interrogation; Psychological profile; Psychopathic personality.

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profiling

profiling the recording and analysis of a person's psychological and behavioural characteristics, so as to assess or predict their capabilities in a certain sphere or to assist in identifying a particular subgroup of people.
In the 1980s and 1990s, profiling became a staple of forensic investigation, with the technique of DNA profiling, or genetic fingerprinting, frequently employed to establish the unique physical characteristics of an individual. More controversially, psychological profiling has been used to build up an outline of the likely offender.

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profiling

profiling Production of a histogram (or equivalent) concerning some aspect of a system. For example, an execution profile for a program might show the proportion of time spent in each individual procedure during a run of the program, while a statement profile might show the distribution of the statements in a program between the different kinds of statement provided by the language.

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profiling

profiling
1. A method in which an array is moved progressively along a traverse line to obtain a continuous cover of measurements of the subsurface and so produce a profile. See CONSTANT-SEPARATION TRAVERSING.

2. In reflection seismology, the acquisition of data along a line, which then form a seismic section (see SEISMIC RECORD). See COMMON DEPTH POINT.

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