Federal Police, Facebook, and other social networking sites are increasingly becoming one of the most important sources for intelligence about people. Forget neighbors talking to the police, now we are looking at our socially connected world as being involved with law enforcement.
IT News and Read Write Web are reporting that the Australian Federal Police would like a report button and a direct liaison with police departments worldwide in an effort to have people report on bad guys that are on social networks. Social networks are an alluring place for people to hang out, both good and bad, with the preponderance of people on the good side of things. However, as we connect, make friends, and meet new people we might run into people we do not agree with or think they are doing something illegal or shady.
Read Write Web states:
Last week, Facebook and the AFP, as well as other social media companies and other international law enforcement, spoke at a meeting arranged by the U.S. Justice Department. The meeting was called to address conflicts between U.S. companies and international law agencies. Australian Federal Police High Tech Crime Centre assistant commissioner Neil Gaughan told Australia’s iTnews that he had requested that Facebook hire a compliance officer, someone to serve as an “international law enforcement presence…in Australia, a point of contact” with the police. They are also being asked to install a button on the Australian version of the site that will allow users to report people to the police. Source: Read Write Web
Many governments regardless of their form or format rely on the process of people fact many tyrannies rely on the same process, people telling the police about things that are going on in their local area that the police might not be aware of. Even democracies rely on the same process, we all need to report crime when we find it, and we think that law enforcement is not aware of the issue. This has been a time honored tradition across many different forms of government, not just tyrannies, but democracies as well.
The problem is that we all know these kinds of processes are abused. We report to the police the neighbors that we do not like for whatever reason. The problem is not so much that they are doing this (in my opinion) it is that this is a system that is rife for abuse. When dealing with international sensibilities, if I post a picture that someone elsewhere in the world thinks is porn and there is a simple “report offensive images” or “report offensive speech” the level of data is going to be impossible to manage. International sensibilities on what are permissible, what is not permissible given a particular society and culture are going to be problematic for any social networking site. Any site that is international in scope will have this issue.
Child predator’s aside, the simple fact of being able to report anyone for anything is going to destroy the ability of law enforcement to do anything. The data inundation will be on the order of a biblical event, with no way to manage, and no way to tell if the data is actionable or not. We are dealing with people, and people are often messy, prone to agendas, and prone to revenge for any reason. Let alone the idea that a Facebook account can have its credentials hacked, or malware traversing the social networks and law enforcement I do not think has a real idea of what they are asking for. Orwellian ideas aside, the simple inundation of data is going to cripple law enforcement. We have seen this with the TSA and the no fly list; people still slip through the cracks.
If this is an actual mission, the ability to monitor people for every interaction that they have on a social network based on what other people think is appropriate and what is not, law enforcement is in for a very rude awakening without the ability to filter non-actionable non-illegal activity from activity that is illegal. People are simply going to report everything they object to, regardless of if it is a true crime. And let us not forget the hacktivists, how much does anyone want to bet that people are simply going to hit the button to overwhelm law enforcement anyways? We all know that is going to happen, it is a given, people will simply abuse the system, regardless of the system in place.
While it is interesting to ask, and the Patriot Act and other government rules and regulations require a certain amount of data retention and reporting, this new process being proposed is going to overwhelm law enforcement as much as any other mass reporting system will. This might be one of those times where government did not quite realize what they were asking for, or how they are going to manage the flood of data that will be forthcoming. The data will come, will law enforcement be able to make sense of it, or truly find the criminals amongst us?
- Police ‘Facebook Car’ to deal with threats made on social network revealed by blogger (dailymail.co.uk)
(Cross-posted @ Techwag)