Does our child protection system cause young people to commit crimes? The evidence suggests so

Does our child protection system cause young people to commit crimes? The evidence suggests so

If a child commits an offence while in the care of the state, questions should be asked about the quality of care and supervision being provided. Shutterstock
Tamara Walsh, The University of Queensland

Removing a child from their home for their own protection should be an absolute last resort. Before we remove a child, we should be sure that we can offer them a safer, more nurturing alternative – their new home should improve their current circumstances and their life chances.

Yet, for a significant proportion of children who end up in out of home care, this is not happening. Many children are being charged with criminal offences while they are in the “care” of the state.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare recently reported that 50% of young people under youth justice supervision in Australia have also received child protection services.

The link is even more prevalent in Queensland – the Independent Review into Youth Detention reported in 2017 that 76% of children in the youth justice system are known to the child safety department.

The Northern Territory Royal Commission also found children on child protection orders are five times more likely to commit an offence than other children.

And my research has found the chain of causation goes in one direction in these matters: children come into the child protection system first and then commit offences, not the other way around.


Read more: Nothing to see here? The abuse and neglect of children in care is a century-old story in Australia


Does out of home care lead to offending?

If a child commits an offence while in the care of the state, questions should be asked about the quality of care and supervision being provided. Is the care environment somehow causing the criminal behaviour? Or is the association just coincidental?

It could be coincidental, in the sense that young people who interact with both the child protection and youth justice systems share certain characteristics.

Many suffer from mental health or behavioural conditions, are homeless or have experienced trauma or abuse. Indigenous children are also more likely to be known to child protection services, and more likely to appear before the criminal courts.

Yet, international research suggests the nature of a child’s placement influences their chances of offending. Research from the US has also found that children who are known to child protection services but remain at home are less likely to offend than those who are placed in out of home care.


Read more: The problem with child protection isn’t the money, it’s the system itself


It is all too easy to conclude these kids are just “troubled” or even “bad”. We might assume since they come from difficult homes, and they have psycho-social problems, this trajectory is inevitable.

But my research suggests there is more to this story. I interviewed 24 Brisbane-based lawyers and youth workers who deal with children who “cross over” between child protection and youth justice.

They overwhelmingly agreed the child protection system itself is leading many children to commit offences.

Charges for minor offences

The criminal charges these children receive appear to be unnecessary and avoidable. According to my interview subjects, many children who commit offences are driven by necessity.

For example, many children are charged with public transport fare evasion. Others are charged with shoplifting. These offences arise directly out of material disadvantage, but this is happening while they are supposed to be being in the care of the state. Why don’t they have transport cards? Why do they feel the need to steal food or clothing?

My participants said other charges result from the trauma or mental health conditions these children are dealing with. They described situations where their young clients had been charged with wilful damage for punching a wall, or assault for lashing out at a carer.

As one lawyer said,

This doesn’t happen in an ordinary family home – you don’t call the police because there’s a hole in the wall.

Other types of offending involved trivial incidents that really just amounted to “kids being kids”.

My participants described situations where children were charged with theft for taking food out of the fridge, assault for whacking each other with tea towels, wilful damage for knocking down a locked bathroom door to use the toilet, break and enter for “breaking into” their own house, and trespass for bringing in a friend.


Read more: How resilience can break the link between a ‘bad’ childhood and the youth justice system


Importantly, the lawyers and social workers I interviewed emphasised that most often, the children who are charged with offences are living in residential care settings, rather than foster care situations.

Residential care is a placement option where children live in share houses in the community that are staffed by youth workers around the clock. These units house some of Australia’s most vulnerable children. Yet, the youth workers who staff them are often young themselves, and under-skilled.

What these kids most often need is a nurturing, home-like environment, but the youth workers may lack the life experience necessary to provide this. Calling police becomes a fall-back option to deal with difficult situations.

Better environments for troubled children

These children have fallen through all the cracks of the systems that should have supported them: family, education and child protection. Often, every adult in their lives has let them down.

As the UK criminologist Claire Taylor has said, we need to be “ambitious” on behalf of these children. They need, and have a legal right to, the best possible start the community can give them.

If we remove them from an “unsafe” environment, we must ensure we are placing them into a safe one – one where they will not be vulnerable to offending or criminal charges but rather will be nurtured and supported.

As one youth worker told me,

it sounds a bit corny, but I reckon it all comes back to love – the offending and stuff is just a symptom.The Conversation

Tamara Walsh, Professor, The University of Queensland

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A handsome soldier with a ‘medical bill’: how romance scammers make you fall in love with them

A handsome soldier with a ‘medical bill’: how romance scammers make you fall in love with them

Natalie Gately, Edith Cowan University and James McCue, Edith Cowan University

Maria Exposto, a Sydney grandmother who fell victim to a romance scam and became an unwitting drug mule, couldn’t have known what was before her when she left Australia to sign documents for her fiancé so he could retire and marry her.

At 50-years-old, Exposto had fallen for a widowed special forces soldier doing his bit for his country.

They have never met, which was easily explained – he was deployed in Afghanistan. She described being “blindly in love” with a man who wooed her online, serenading her with love songs and long, deep conversations.

Exposto recently walked free after facing a death sentence in Malaysia for attempting to smuggle a kilogram of ice five years ago. Since she was caught, she has maintained she was a victim of a romance scam.


Read more: From catfish to romance fraud, how to avoid getting caught in any online scam


Sadly, Exposto’s story is not unique. Like Exposto, victims of romance scams tend to be between 45 to 54-years-old, impulsive, respond to elaborate stories and are well-educated.

Romance scammers prey on people to build a relationship and defraud their victims. They are clever, well organised and have a number of tried techniques that make them highly successful.

The extreme emotional ties formed can make victims easy to manipulate and leave them vulnerable to knowingly or unknowingly engaging in criminal activity.

More than 10 million Australians are exposed to at least one personal fraud scam each year.

And with more than 3.5 million Australians using Tinder alone, the opportunities for romance scammers is growing rapidly. In fact, online dating fraud rose by 150% in a year from 2011, with criminals recognising the opportunities to exploit those looking for a partner.

Scammers are in for the long haul

In Exposto’s case, the “relationship” had been ongoing for more than a year. This is not surprising, as romance scammers are in for the long haul and see the process as a long term investment to establish intimacy and trust. They often use teams of people to “hook” and “woo” the victim.

Scammers typically fake profiles with stolen photographs, often mimicking army officers, and frequently create a story of tragic or desperate circumstances. Armed force identities are common, as it easily explains their inability to meet in person.

Could the handsome military officer’s picture actually come from a stock image website? It’s a good idea to reverse image search the photo of your online partner. Shutterstock

It’s this willingness of the scammer to engage in a prolonged, sustained interaction that creates the belief the relationship is “real” and leading to something more permanent.

Eventually, the scammer has ensnared a person who has heavily invested in the relationship, has a strong emotional attachment and has been groomed to believe they “know and understand” their partner.

After the bond is established, scammers frequently request money to pay fictitious medical bills, help partners out of dangerous situations or pay for tickets.

Money mules

In some cases, victims can become involved in illegal activities including money laundering and bank fraud, and are at risk of being charged. These types of victims are often referred to as “money mules”.


Read more: How to get away with fraud: the successful techniques of scamming


And “mule recruitment” is when the scammer attempts to get a person to receive stolen funds and then transfer those funds to criminals overseas.

Many victims of fraud related crimes can also suffer their own financial loss, on top of facing the sudden loss of, what was to them, an important and significant intimate relationship – a “double hit”.

Victims have described the loss of the relationship as more devastating than their financial loss.

Shame and humiliation

Their experience is more psychologically damaging than other types of fraud, and is often compounded by a total lack of understanding from family and friends.

Some victims remain in denial and are unable to accept the scam or separate the fake identity with a criminal. Some realise they’ve exposed themselves or performed sexual acts online, and feel humiliated and violated. They report feeling depressed, and even suicidal.


Read more: More than just money: getting caught in a romance scam could cost you your life


And victims have said they lost trust in others, severed social ties, and suffered a lower sense of self-worth and confidence.

This social withdrawal and isolation can make victims vulnerable to a second wave of the scam, believing their online partners excuses or explanations that they really are “real”.

But victims don’t often receive social support, reporting that family, friends and colleagues thought they were stupid, or were angry with them because of the financial loss, such as losing inheritance.

Many victims keep their experience a secret or don’t disclose the entire story for fear of these types of reactions.

How can you avoid being duped?

There are ways you can avoid being scammed by a one-sided romance.

Read and take heed of the instructions on dating websites. Most have clear guidelines of how to avoid online fraud, such as being suspicious about early declarations of love, requesting or receiving money.

It’s also a good idea to use their photos to do some sleuthing online, and see what information pops up when you do a reverse image search on Google. Look for any inconsistencies, see if what they’ve told you about themselves adds up.


Read more: Why we need to do more for the victims of online fraud and scams


You can also run their email address through RomanceScams.org which lists names of known scammers.

And if you become aware a friend or family member has been victimised, remember it’s a time to provide support and understanding to break the isolation, allowing the victim to grieve over the lost relationship, rebuild their self-esteem, and try again.The Conversation

Natalie Gately, Criminology Courses Coordinator, Edith Cowan University and James McCue, Lecturer in Psychology and Criminology, Edith Cowan University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Posted in Private Investigations | Leave a comment

The ACCC is suing Google over tracking users. Here’s why it matters

shutterstock.
Katharine Kemp, UNSW

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) today announced it is suing Google for misleading consumers about its collection and use of personal location data.

The case is the consumer watchdog’s first move against a major digital platform following the publication of the Digital Platforms Inquiry Final Report in July.

The ACCC follows regulators in countries including the US and Germany in taking action against the way “tech giants” such as Google and Facebook harvest and exploit their users’ data.

What did Google do?

ACCC Chair Rod Sims said Google “collected, kept and used highly sensitive and valuable personal information about consumers’ location without them making an informed choice”.

The ACCC alleges that Google breached the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) by misleading its users in the course of 2017 and 2018, including by:

  • not properly disclosing that two different settings needed to be switched off if consumers did not want Google to collect, keep and use their location data

  • not disclosing on those pages that personal location data could be used for a number of purposes unrelated to the consumer’s use of Google services.

Some of the alleged breaches can carry penalties of up to A$10 million or 10% of annual turnover.

A spokesperson for Google is reported to have said the company is reviewing the allegations and engaging with the ACCC.

The two separate settings that users needed to change to disable location tracking. Android screenshots, Author provided

Turning off “Location History” did not turn off location history

According to the ACCC, Google’s account settings on Android phones and tablets would have led consumers to think changing a setting on the “Location History” page would stop Google from collecting, keeping and using their location data.

The ACCC says Google failed to make clear to consumers that they would actually need to change their choices on a separate setting titled “Web & App Activity” to prevent this location tracking.

Location data is used for much more than Google Maps

Google collects and uses consumers’ personal location data for purposes other than providing Google services to consumers. For example, Google uses location data to work out demographic information, target advertising, and offer advertising services to other businesses.

Digital platforms increasingly track consumers online and offline to create highly detailed personal profiles on each of us. These profiles are then used to sell advertising services. These data practices create risks of criminal data breaches, discrimination, exclusion and manipulation.


Read more: Here’s how tech giants profit from invading our privacy, and how we can start taking it back


Concealed data practices under fire around the world

The ACCC joins a number of other regulators and consumer organisations taking aim at the concealed data practices of the “tech giants”.

This year, the Norwegian Consumer Council published a report – Deceived by Design – which analysed a sample of Google, Facebook and Microsoft Windows privacy settings. The conclusion: “service providers employ numerous tactics in order to nudge or push consumers toward sharing as much data as possible”.

The report said some aspects of privacy policies can be seen as “dark patterns”, or “features of interface design crafted to trick users into doing things that they might not want to do”.

In Canada, an investigation into how Facebook gets consent for certain data practices by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada was highly critical.

It found that the relevant data use policy “contained blanket statements referencing potential disclosures of a broad range of personal information, to a broad range of individuals or organisations, for a broad range of purposes”. The result was that Facebook users “had no way of truly knowing what personal information would be disclosed to which app and for what purposes”.

Is Facebook next?

The ACCC was highly critical of the data practices of a number of large digital platforms when the Final Report of the Digital Platforms Inquiry was published in July this year. The platforms included included Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter and Google.

The report was particularly scathing about privacy policies which were long, complex, difficult to navigate and low on real choices for consumers. In its words, certain common features of digital platforms’ consent processes

leverage digital platforms’ bargaining power and deepen information asymmetries, preventing consumers from providing meaningful consents to digital platforms’ collection, use and disclosure of their user data.

The report also stated the ACCC was investigating whether various representations by Google and Facebook respectively would “raise issues under the ACL”.

The investigations concerning Facebook related to representations concerning its sharing of user data with third parties and potential unfair contract terms. So far no proceedings against Facebook have been announced.


Read more: 94% of Australians do not read all privacy policies that apply to them – and that’s rational behaviour


Will this change anything?

While penalties of up to A$10 million or 10% of annual turnover (in Australia) may sound significant, last year Google made US$116 billion in advertising revenue globally.

In July, the US Federal Trade Commission settled with Facebook on a US$5 billion fine for repeatedly misleading users about the fact that personal information could be accessed by third-party apps without the user’s consent, if a user’s Facebook “friend” gave consent. Facebook’s share price went up after the FTC approved the settlement.

But this does not mean the ACCC’s proceedings against Google are a pointless exercise. Aside from the impact on Google’s reputation, these proceedings may highlight for consumers the difference between platforms which have incentives to hide data practices from consumers and other platforms – like the search engine DuckDuckGo – which offer privacy-respecting alternatives.The Conversation

Katharine Kemp, Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Law, UNSW, and Co-Leader, ‘Data as a Source of Market Power’ Research Stream of The Allens Hub for Technology, Law and Innovation, UNSW

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Posted in Private Investigations | Leave a comment

How women’s life-long experiences of being judged by their appearance affect how they feel in open-plan offices

Women are more likely to feel watched, exposed or more accountable in open-plan offices. from www.shutterstock.com, CC BY-ND
Rachel Morrison, Auckland University of Technology

A key reason many organisations want to move their employees to open-plan workspaces is to encourage collaboration and improve communication. The assumption is that the increased visibility and access workers have to one another will ease the flow of information and enhance learning, well-being, and collegiality.

Research suggests that, in some circumstances, this can indeed be the outcome. But another study recently found exactly the opposite, with workers engaging in 73% fewer face-to-face interactions, along with a 67% increase in electronic communication.


Read more: A new study should be the final nail for open-plan offices


It is not just face-to-face communication that becomes worse in open-plan offices. There are findings that satisfaction decreases, well-being is impacted, privacy decreases, and people become less friendly.

One undeniable aspect of open-plan offices is the increased exposure and access to others they offer. This is sometimes deemed a benefit – particularly because it increases opportunities to learn from, and network with, high-status colleagues. But our research suggests that being more visible may not be good for everyone.


Read more: Get out of my face! We’re more antisocial in a shared office space


Gender differences

Our study in a large open-plan law firm in Auckland found that, although occupants generally liked this well designed work environment, there was a gender difference in the responses. Every survey respondent who specifically mentioned being visible, watched, observed, exposed or more accountable was a woman. The male occupants, it seems, were oblivious to their increased exposure. This difference in responses was especially striking since we did not set out to explore the gender effects of open-plan work spaces.

It wasn’t that all the women especially disliked being so exposed. In fact, being visible came up several times when they were describing positive aspects of the space, outlining how the open office improved their productivity. One lawyer said:

Overall the effect on my productivity is positive – can always be seen, so always working unless nobody is around.

Another woman commented:

Knowing that other people can see what I am doing also motivates me to be productive.

But this female lawyer was keenly aware of the downside of being so visible:

I don’t like that sometimes it feels like people are judging you for not giving enough face time as everything is so visible. Back at [previous office] there was more of a motto of getting the work done in the time needed and then go home. Now, with open space, it feels more like a fish bowl and I have noticed more subtle pressure to stay later even if you don’t technically need to – based on looks some seniors, even from entirely different teams, give you.

Other research looking at the effect of working in a glass open-plan, largely transparent office, revealed the unexpected outcome of women becoming hyper-aware of being continually observed and evaluated, just as we found. Women (but not men) in this study reported becoming more image conscious, changing the way they dressed, how and where they walked, and feeling exposed.

Why is this? Are women really being looked at more than their male colleagues?

Research into the male gaze and surveillance behaviour on nudist beaches suggests they are. But, whether they are or not, women are socialised, practically from birth, to believe they are being looked at.

Evaluated on appearance

Through their life experiences and their exposure to media, women and girls learn that they are almost constantly being evaluated and appraised. Women are aware of being observed in a way that men are not, simply because their life experiences have routinely included instances of being looked at.

Every time a girl is told she is cute or pretty, or even described in gender-neutral, objective terms such as being tall, she is actually being told she is being looked at and assessed on her appearance. Boys are far more likely to have their behaviour or personality commented on by adults, rather than their appearance – being brave, adventurous or clever.

Even more insidious is the notion that appearance evaluations genuinely matter in numerous situations. The benefits that attractive women receive include everything from social mobility and college admissions to educational attainment and job offers. Women rated as being unattractive or unfeminine are more negatively evaluated than comparably unattractive men.

Better office designs

Given that women’s outcomes are, at least in part, determined by their appearance, it is not surprising that, compared to their male colleagues, female workers are comparatively more aware of their visibility.

Research suggests we should question the notion that, just because we can see and hear our colleagues, we will have more and better in-person conversations. The communication benefits of increased exposure to others afforded by open-plan space may be overstated, and the downside of being so visible may disproportionately impact women in the workplace.

The idea that female and male employees differ in their perceptions of being observed should be acknowledged and incorporated into office design.

How? By ensuring that, within open-plan environments, female workers are afforded opportunities for privacy. This includes allowing them to work with their backs to the wall or to be seated away from busy thoroughfares, and by positioning desks so that women are not forced to walk past numerous colleagues on their way to amenities such as the kitchen or the bathroom.

Or, best of all, allowing people to work remotely (and in total privacy) for at least part of the week.The Conversation

Rachel Morrison, Senior Lecturer, Business School, Auckland University of Technology

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Posted in Business Investigations | Leave a comment

Data lakes: where big businesses dump their excess data, and hackers have a field day

Unlike purpose-built data storage systems, a data lake can be used to dump data in its original form. This data usually remains unsupervised. Shutterstock.com
Mohiuddin Ahmed, Edith Cowan University

Machines and the internet are woven into the fabric of our society. A growing number of users, devices and applications work together to produce what we now call “big data”. And this data helps drive many of the everyday services we access, such as banking.

A comparison of internet snapshots from 2018 and 2019 sheds light on the increasing rate at which digital information is exchanged daily. The challenge of safely capturing and storing data is becoming more complicated with time.

This is where data warehouses and data lakes are relevant. Both are online spaces used by businesses for internal data processing and storage.

Unfortunately, since the concept of data lakes originated in 2010, not enough has been done to address issues of cyber security.

These valuable repositories remain exposed to an increasing amount of cyber attacks and data breaches.


Read more: Australia is vulnerable to a catastrophic cyber attack, but the Coalition has a poor cyber security track record


A proposed panacea for big data problems

The traditional approach used by service providers is to store data in a “data warehouse” – a single repository that can be used to analyse data, create reports, and consolidate information.

However, data going into a warehouse needs to be pre-processed. With zettabytes of data in cyber space, this isn’t an easy task. Pre-processing requires a hefty amount of computation done by high-end supercomputers, and costs time and money.

Data lakes were proposed to solve this. Unlike warehouses, they can store raw data of any type. Data lakes are often considered a panacea for big data problems, and have been embraced by many organisations trying to drive innovation and new services for users.

James Dixon, the US data technician who reputedly coined the term, describes data lakes thus:

If you think of a datamart as a store of bottled water – cleansed and packaged and structured for easy consumption – the data lake is a large body of water in a more natural state. The contents of the data lake stream in from a source to fill the lake, and various users of the lake can come to examine, dive in, or take samples.

Be careful swimming in a data lake

Although data lakes create opportunities for data crunchers, their digital doors remain unguarded, and solving cyber safety issues remains an afterthought.

Our ability to analyse and extract intelligence from data lakes is threatened in the realms of cyber space. This is evident through the high number of recent data breaches and cyber attacks worldwide.

With technological advances, we become even more prone to cyber attacks. Confronting malicious cyber activity should be a priority in the current digital climate.

While research into this has flourished in recent years, a strong connection between effective cyber security and data lakes is yet to be made.

Not uncommon to be compromised

Due to advances in malicious software, specifically in malware obfuscation, it’s easy for hackers to hide a dangerous virus within a harmless-looking file.

False data injection attacks have increased over the past decade.

The attack happens when a cyber criminal exploits freely available tools to compromise a system connected to the internet, to inject it with false data.


Read more: Aerial threat: why drone hacking could be bad news for the military


The foreign data injected gains unauthorised access to the data lake and manipulates the stored data to mislead users. There are many potential motivators behind such an attack.

Components of data lakes

Data lake architecture can be divided into three components: data ingestion, data storage and data analytics.

Data ingestion refers to data coming into the lake from a diverse range of sources. This usually happens with no legitimate security policies in place. When incoming data is not checked for security threats, a golden opportunity is presented for cyber criminals to inject false data.

The second component is data storage, which is where all the raw data gets dumped. Again, this happens without any sizeable cyber safety considerations.

The most important component of data lakes is data analytics, which combines the expertise of analysts, scientists and data officers. The objective of data analytics is to design and develop modelling algorithms which can use raw data to produce meaningful insights.

For instance, data analytics is how Netflix learns about its subscribers’ viewing habits.

Challenges ahead for data experts

The slightest change or manipulation in data lakes can hugely mislead data crunchers and have widespread impact.

For instance, compromised data lakes have huge implications for healthcare, because any deviation in data can lead to a wrong diagnosis, or even casualties.

Also, government agencies using compromised data lakes may face mayhem in international affairs and trade situations. The defence, finance, governance and educational sectors are also vulnerable to data lake attacks.


Read more: Who’s afraid of the bad, big data? You might want to read this


Considering the volume of data stored in data lakes, the consequences of cyber attacks are far from trivial.

And since generating huge amounts of data in today’s world is inevitable, it’s crucial that data lake architects try harder to ensure these at-risk data depots are correctly looked after.The Conversation

Mohiuddin Ahmed, Lecturer of Computing & Security, Edith Cowan University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment