Feeds

How the government uses dirty data to legislate morality

So what's a standard deviation?

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

High performance access to file storage

Convenient categories

The problem with evidence-based policy in this immensely controversial area start here, with basic categorisation. They are then compounded by selectivity within the research, with government in particular keen to select measures, sample, reports, and effect to suit their basic agenda.

According to Kinsey, around one-third of US men had at least one homosexual experience in their lifetime. Does that mean that one-third of Americans are gay? Probably not.

What then is the meaning of "being gay"? A spat is currently developing between Consenting Adult Action Network (CAAN) and the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) over the nature of "sexual orientation". According to the Equality Act 2006 (pdf), the EHRC is concerned with inequalities which affect a variety of groups – including groups defined by their "sexual orientation."

Clair Lewis, National Convenor for CAAN, asked the EHRC why they view homosexuality as an orientation – but not, say, sado-masochism. For the EHRC, Director of Public Policy, Andrea Murray, argues that the EHRC is limited to what the law allows it to consider, and that by definition, “orientation” excludes bdsm: CAAN remain unconvinced and have indicated that they consider this to be ducking the question, that the only answer they have received to date is a hint from their Chair, Trevor Phillips that the difference lies in whether someone is "born that way” or makes a conscious choice.

Whilst such a view may apply to gender, it is questionable whether the nature/nurture argument can ever be so clear in respect of behaviour. In general, genetic causation is not a fixed effect, but varies according to the levels of social variability to which an individual is subject. In a highly regulated society, in which social effects have been minimised, the proportion of genetic causality behind any behaviour will increase - and vice-versa, in a society where difference is tolerated, the genetic effect will diminish.

This issue of categorisation shades into questions of measurement selection in the much more serious area of rape. It is a commonplace of news reporting that the number of rapes has gone up over the last few decades from 1,200 reported in 1980, to over 12,000 in 2004-5, whilst the conviction rate has dropped from a relatively re-assuring 38 per cent to a mere 5.5 per cent in the same period.

The problem with such Shock!-Horror! comparisons is that a complex picture is reduced to a few very basic measures. Conviction rates (here, the ratio between crimes reported and convictions obtained) has plummeted for almost all categories of crime in the same period - and to similar degree. The current conviction rate for rape is certainly not good – but it is not out of line with that for many other offences, such as wounding or burglary.

Public perceptions of what constitutes rape – and so the threshold for reporting an incident - have almost certainly shifted over the period, whilst the basis for even such basic measures as recorded crime has changed.

High performance access to file storage

Next page: Poppycock problem

More from The Register

next story
Android engineer: We DIDN'T copy Apple OR follow Samsung's orders
Veep testifies for Samsung during Apple patent trial
MtGox chief Karpelès refuses to come to US for g-men's grilling
Bitcoin baron says he needs another lawyer for FinCEN chat
Did a date calculation bug just cost hard-up Co-op Bank £110m?
And just when Brit banking org needs £400m to stay afloat
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
German space centre endures cyber attack
Chinese code retrieved but NSA hack not ruled out
EFF: Feds plan to put 52 MILLION FACES into recognition database
System would identify faces as part of biometrics collection
Big Content goes after Kim Dotcom
Six studios sling sueballs at dead download destination
Ex-Tony Blair adviser is new top boss at UK spy-hive GCHQ
Robert Hannigan to replace Sir Iain Lobban in the autumn
Alphadex fires back at British Gas with overcharging allegation
Brit colo outfit says it paid for 347KVA, has been charged for 1940KVA
Jack the RIPA: Blighty cops ignore law, retain innocents' comms data
Prime minister: Nothing to see here, go about your business
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
HP ArcSight ESM solution helps Finansbank
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.