Finally, a court has ruled that in order for a DNA test to be admitted as evidence, the source code must be made available to the defense.
To my mind, any software used for prosecutions should be publicly available for review:
A New Jersey appeals court has ruled that a man accused of murder is entitled to review proprietary genetic testing software to challenge evidence presented against him.
Attorneys defending Corey Pickett, on trial for a fatal Jersey City shooting that occurred in 2017, have been trying to examine the source code of a software program called TrueAllele to assess its reliability. The software helped analyze a genetic sample from a weapon that was used to tie the defendant to the crime.
The maker of the software, Cybergenetics, has insisted in lower court proceedings that the program’s source code is a trade secret. The co-founder of the company, Mark Perlin, is said to have argued against source code analysis by claiming that the program, consisting of 170,000 lines of MATLAB code, is so dense it would take eight and a half years to review at a rate of ten lines an hour.
MATLAB is a pretty high level language, so if you have 170,000 lines of code in it, you are writing bloated code.
Also, if you have 170,000 lines of code in it, I guarantee that there are bugs, and likely substantial ones, because most of those lines of code are there to handle edge (unlikely) cases, where the programmer has to make broad assumptions about the data.
On Wednesday, the appellate court sided with the defense [PDF] and sent the case back to a lower court directing the judge to compel Cybergenetics to make the TrueAllele code available to the defense team.
“Without scrutinizing its software’s source code – a human-made set of instructions that may contain bugs, glitches, and defects – in the context of an adversarial system, no finding that it properly implements the underlying science could realistically be made,” the ruling says.
Kit Walsh, senior staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, hailed the appellate ruling. “No one should be imprisoned or executed based on secret evidence that cannot be fairly evaluated for its reliability, and the ruling in this case will help prevent that injustice,” she said in a blog post. If TrueAllele is found wanting, presumably that will not affect the dozen individuals said to have been exonerated by the software.
It should be noted that the studies “validating” TrueAllele have been conducted by Mark Perlin, and as such are suspect.
Also, though these are slightly different application, we already know that algorithms used for health care software, Zoom face detection, educational evaluations, and criminal sentencing are all explicitly racist.
It is no stretch to assume that an algorithm explicitly developed for police and prosecutors would be biased in their favor.
That is how you make sales.