No one ever said that criminals were particularly smart. Over the years, we've pointed to a number of incredibly stupid criminals who post evidence or confessions of their crimes in YouTube videos. What's amazed us, though, are politicians who argue that there should be additional criminal penalties for those who broadcast their crimes via YouTube, even as it presents evidence that makes it easier to convict them. In fact, we had a story of a City Council explicitly ordering a serial criminal to stop posting evidence of his crimes to YouTube.
Thankfully, such calls for adding penalties for dumb criminals publicly exposing evidence about their crimes seems to have died down. So, now we can see videos like the following in which Hannah Sabata, a 19-year-old from Nebraska, confesses to robbing a bank and a car and brags about it (and let's not even get into whether or not the Green Day tune with the video is infringing... though it looks like that's been "claimed" and "monetized" by ContentID):
The video was posted last week... and apparently a lot of people called the local sheriff. Apparently Ms. Sabata also texted her ex-husband (an ex-husband at 19?) bragging about the crime as well, and he alerted the police also. Adding to the evidence: the outfit she wears in the video... is the same outfit she wore during the bank robbery.
"I've been sheriff for 19 years, and in law enforcement for 42 years, and I've never seen anything like this," Sheriff Radcliff said.
Yup. And it seems like a good thing that we have stupid criminals incriminating themselves so publicly, rather than making that an additional crime.
"Cybercrime" investigator Rob Holmes has an interesting post arguing that seizing domains is a recipe for making the problems of illegal activity online even worse. He takes credit for being one of the first to suggest that domains could be viewed as "tools" of a criminal, thus making them ripe for seizure. However, he's not impressed by those in law enforcement who are eagerly seizing domains by the dozens -- in part because he thinks it helps actual criminals more than it hurts them:
The reason we are fighting the good fight is to stop people from doing bad things and hold them accountable for their actions. Whether you are enforcing trademark rights or car thefts, this has to be done one person at a time. In 2010 a client asked me what we could take away from the offenders to make them stop. My simple answer was “Their freedom.” Entrepreneurs will always find a way to do business. Bad guys need to be put away to reflect on their actions. Nothing else will stop them. When you take away only the tool, you are training the criminal to improve. I am not in the business of training crooks. Are you?
This, of course, is a different perspective. Most of us have been concerned about the free speech and collateral damage issues raised by domain seizures. But Holmes is making the argument that, even when we're talking about confirmed criminal activity, domain seizures are counterproductive because they're going after a tool rather than those actually responsible.
For many years, we've heard various stories of how anyone who attends an early movie screening (i.e., before the movie has actually been widely released), should expect to be treated like a total criminal. The usual stories involve being searched carefully and being required to hand over all mobile phones, which will be held until the end of the film. Reader minerat writes in to tell us of his story, which involved going to a 7:30pm showing of Moneyball last week -- just a few hours before the movie was actually being released. Even so... same process. "Security made everyone give up their cell phones and checked all bags." And, it appears that security had their priorities straight from the MPAA:
The better part is after we gave up our phones, another security guard waves a metal detecting wand over us and we had to empty our pockets on any hits. My friend has a license to carry a firearm and was carrying - we thought this would be a problem (it's a center city Philadelphia theater), but no, he didn't care about his loaded handgun. Apparently a cameraphone is the bigger threat to a movie that will be publicly released 2 hours after we step out of the theater. Of course the DVD screener has been available on usenet for 3+ months.
ethorad writes "In the UK, in an attempt to promote the work the police do, some forces name and shame criminals that they catch and prosecute. All good so far as it helps the community see that crimes are being tackled (assuming they are ...)
However the Ministry of Justice has now said that police forces who do that must remove the details from their website after one month. Yeah, good luck with that. Place your bets now on how many third party websites (especially local community ones) will start scraping the details from police websites for long term storage?"
Reader Tina alerts us to an article about how some students in Venezuela have been arrested for using Facebook to monitor other students' activities, and then rob them while they were out. Of course, it appears the plan wasn't that foolproof, considering they were caught. The rest of the article discusses Facebook and Twitter usage in Venezuela, and how the police and the government are trying to use those tools to crack down not just on crime, but also on dissent... at the same time that government protesters are using the tools to make themselves more widely heard (and organized). There isn't that much surprising -- and it seems that the role of social networks is merely to amplify what is going on already in the country, which is about what you'd expect. Still, it is interesting to see this sense of wonder that some people have over the fact that not everyone who uses Facebook uses it for "good" reasons.
It seems there's never a shortage of folks trying to get listed in the new feature about stupid criminals giving themselves away. We just had the bank robber who bragged about his escapades on MySpace, and now we have a story about a girl (under the legal drinking age) awaiting trial for vehicular homicide for driving drunk and killing a motorcyclist. Apparently, as a part of her bail while waiting for trial, she was not to drink alcohol or spend time with people drinking alcohol. So, now she's in a bit of trouble after authorities found photos of her drinking alcohol with college friends on Facebook. Apparently, she never thought anyone would notice. The judge, however, is now forcing her to wear a special ankle bracelet that senses alcohol in perspiration. Either way, once again, it's nice to see that for all the moral panic talk about the "harm" done by social networks, some law enforcement folks are using it to actually catch criminals.
There certainly have been plenty of stories of incredibly dumb criminals bragging about their crimes on social networking sites -- only to realize too late that the police use such sites too. The latest is a bank robber who bragged about the robbery on Myspace, saying "On tha run for robbin a bank Love all of yall." Of course, the police didn't happen to notice this until they were tipped off by someone who recognized the guy in a television report that flashed a photo of the suspect. However, it makes it a bit harder to defend when the guy effectively confessed on MySpace.
An anonymous reader sent in the following story about how some large software companies are suddenly increasing the number of "software audits" they're doing of enterprise buyers. Most enterprise software contracts include license terms that allow the software provider to "audit" the buyer, to make sure they're not abusing the license. As the article notes, however, such audits usually only come at one of two times: (1) when a company threatens to switch to another vendor or (2) when the company has received info from a reliable source that the license was being abused.
However, it looks like with the economy in freefall -- and IT spending being cut back, some enterprise software companies might be thinking that another way to squeeze some money out of customers is to audit them and force a larger bill on them. Of course, this seems like a plan that could backfire in a big, big way. As noted in the article, being audited is not a pleasant experience at all. It's basically a vendor claiming that it thinks you're breaking your agreement. It's not the best way to build up a strong relationship of trust. Because of that, a sudden increase in totally unexpected and uncalled for audits may seriously damage a company's reputation and drive them to proactively look for alternatives from companies who trust them. Treating your customers like criminals is never a good idea...
While some still want to blame YouTube and other sites for the fact that criminals often post evidence of their crimes on the site, others have at least recognized that all YouTube really does is make it that much easier for police to track down and catch criminals. In the latest example, a guy is now facing 10 years in prison after posting a video on YouTube of him holding a gun (and pleading guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm). Not only was the gun unregistered, but it was manufactured outside the state, making it a federal offense. It's like YouTube is a giant filter for dumb criminals.
There have been so many stories of people blaming YouTube or social networks like MySpace and Facebook when stupid criminals post evidence of their crimes online that some politicians actually have been pushing to pass laws that ban posting evidence of your criminal activities to any of these sites. It's as if politicians want to make the job of police officers that much more difficult by telling criminals to stop incriminating themselves. Sometimes, even the police seem to make this mistake, blaming websites for crimes, even when they're actually great resources for helping to catch criminals.
Luckily, not all police officers think this way. Mark writes in to tell us of a case where police not only used both Facebook and YouTube to track down people setting fires in celebration following the Superbowl, but that the department looks upon those tools as being a useful way to catch criminals:
"We are using this (Facebook) as a crime-fighting tool. It's becoming pretty common."
Sure, this seems like perfectly normal common sense -- but given how we've seen some others react to crimes displayed online in this manner, it's nice to be reminded that some people really do have common sense (though, that clearly does not include the criminals posting such incriminating evidence).