Tue, Mar 10th 2009 1:34am
After spending a long time decrying social networks and media-sharing sites for helping to encourage crime, lots of police around the world are realizing that the sites can actually help them fight crime. Some have started posting details of crimes and suspects on popular sites, but some cops are going even further, and taking to private, crime-focused social networks to share information with other cops and investigators. It sounds like they've discovered some of the benefits that increased and easy information-sharing can generate, but there are a couple of areas for concern. First, it isn't just police on these sites, they also include private companies like banks and retailers and security companies. Second, all of this info-sharing is unregulated -- no subpoenas or warrants, or any sort of oversight or rules for transparency. It would seem there's a lot of scope for abuse or for innocent people to be misidentified and mistreated, particularly by private companies on the systems. The rules governing police investigations and the protections they aim to give people exist for good reason; while police and other groups should be able to use technology to better do their jobs, they shouldn't be able to use technology to circumvent regulations. Balancing these two aims will be a critical battleground for legislators, investigators and civil-rights groups moving forward.
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