Brain-computer interfaces

Brain-Computer Interfaces (BCIs) measure brain activity and can be used to control digital devices. The focus of BCI development has been on using the technology to allow patients to control assistive equipment such as wheelchairs or prostheses. Beyond medicine they are under development for applications in entertainment, marketing and defence. This POSTnote looks at the underpinning technology, its applications and the associated ethical and regulatory challenges. …

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Non-custodial sentences

Non-custodial sentences are those that do not include imprisonment, such as discharges, fines and community orders. When sentencing an individual, criminal courts judge whether an offence is serious enough to impose a custodial sentence (either immediate imprisonment or a suspended sentence) or a non-custodial sentence. Criminal justice is devolved, so this POSTnote focuses on non-custodial sentences in England and Wales. In the year ending June 2019, 90% of sentences in England and Wales were n…

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Misuse of civilian drones

Drones (also known as unmanned aircraft) are flying systems that do not carry a pilot. As the technology has become cheaper and more sophisticated, the use of drones for recreational and commercial purposes has grown, with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) reporting a significant increase in the number of permissions obtained for operating commercial drones in the UK. Despite their potential to reduce costs, improve efficiency and provide new services, drones may be misused accidentally or for…

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Research for Parliament: Preparing for a changing world

This document builds on POST's previous publication, Topics of Interest 2018 (POSTbrief 27). The subjects are listed under under six category headings based on the drivers of change identified in POSTnote 500: demographic change and healthcare; social and cultural trends; geopolitical and governance challenges; environmental pressures and climate change; resource security and sustainability; and technological advance.…

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Improving witness testimony

Witness testimony is a written or oral statement given by an individual who has experienced an incident. It is collected during criminal investigations (including through investigative interviews, facial composites and identity parades). However, inaccurate witness testimony (such as the incorrect identification of a suspect) can lead to innocent people being wrongfully convicted. Wrongfully accused or convicted individuals are at risk of discrimination, relationship damage and poor mental healt…

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Early Interventions to Reduce Violent Crime

Violent crime includes a range of offences, from assault to murder. It can be any action that intentionally inflicts (or threatens) physical or psychological damage. Over the past decade overall crime has decreased, and violent crime is down by 69% since 1995. However, homicides and crimes involving knives or sharp instruments have risen since 2014. This has been reflected in an increase in hospital admissions for assaults with knives or sharp instruments. Violent offences are disproportionately…

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Cyber Security of Consumer Devices

Weaknesses in the cyber security of internet-connected consumer devices can undermine the privacy and safety of individual users and can be used for large-scale cyber-attacks. This briefing looks at the cyber threats associated with consumer devices and their causes, as well as initiatives to improve device security, and the related challenges.…

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Stalking and Harassment

Stalking and harassment both involve any repeated behaviour that would cause alarm, distress or fear of violence in a victim. Common stalking or harassment behaviours include unwanted contact online or in person, following a victim, and interfering with property. Stalking is characterised by a perpetrator’s fixation or obsession and can have long-term psychological and social effects on a victim. Stalking also has the potential to escalate to other crimes, such as sexual assault or murder. Thi…

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Distributed Ledger Technology

Distributed ledger technology (DLT) is a type of digital records system that allows multiple identical copies of a ledger to be stored on different computers on a network and updated by multiple different users. This POSTbrief provides a technical overview of the different types of DLT and how they work. It discusses some of the main applications of DLT and highlights the benefits and challenges of the technology. …

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Biometric Technologies

Biometric technologies identify individuals based on their distinguishing physical and behavioural attributes, such as fingerprints, face, and voice. Unlike passwords or traditional identity documents, biometric attributes are inherently linked to a person and cannot usually be lost or forgotten, potentially providing greater security and convenience. This briefing focuses on how these technologies work, their applications, and the policy challenges raised by their use.…

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Topics of Interest 2018

This list sets out the topic areas identified of possible parliamentary interest under the 9 different category headings (Agriculture, Fisheries, Food and Forestry, Crime, Defence, Education and Skills, Energy, Environment, Health, ICT and Robotics and Transport and Infrastructure).…

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Migrants and Housing

Migration is often cited in public debate as a significant factor in the demand for UK housing. This POSTnote provides an overview of available research on migrants and housing. It examines definitions and data sources on migration and its implications. It also outlines the possible impact of migrants on housing, including variation by tenure type, migrant characteristics and region. Finally, it considers the impact of housing on migrants and local communities.…

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Online Information and Fake News

Internet search engines and social media platforms are an increasingly popular way of accessing news and information. In 2017, the proportion of UK adults consuming news online exceeded those who watched news on TV (74% versus 69%). This note considers how people access news online, how algorithms (sequences of instructions) and social networks influence the content that users see, and options for mitigating any negative impact.…

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Cyber Security of UK Infrastructure

The Government has identified ‘cyber’ as one of six Tier 1 threats to UK national security. This POSTnote focuses on the cyber security of the UK’s critical national infrastructure, describing measures to improve cyber security and challenges in implementing them. It also reviews the new National Cyber Security Strategy, along with international policy and legislation.…

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