Social media can be problematic for professionals who don't want their bosses to see unflattering college party photos. But it's even worse for people whose livelihood literally depends on anonymity, like undercover cops. What happens if the gang you've infiltrated finds your grinning mug in Facebook photos from the police union annual picnic?
We've seen how easily biometrics can be used to identify people based on their Internet photos, using something as simple as an iPhone app. Cops themselves are using this technology to ID people on the street — so why wouldn't intrepid motorcycle gang leaders do the same?
The Australian Federal Police is researching how social media may impact covert ops. In a survey last winter, they found the vast majority of law enforcement officers were using social media — 90 percent of females and 81 percent of males, with Facebook and Twitter the top two sites, respectively. Nearly half of those surveyed said they used the sites daily, while another 24 percent used them weekly, according to ComputerWorld Australia.
The worst news, from a cop's perspective: "All respondents aged 26 years or younger had uploaded photos of themselves onto the Internet," ComputerWorld reports. And 85 percent of respondents said someone else had uploaded photos of them. What's more, 42 percent of respondents said they could identify someone based on his or her social media relationships, ComputerWorld says.
"The 16-year-olds of today who might become officers in the future have already been exposed," Mick Keelty, a former Australian Federal Police commissioner, said at a security conference in Sydney.
This covers Australia, not the U.S., but it's reasonable to expect the numbers would be somewhat similar in this country. If so, that means the next generation of undercover agents may have to go to even greater extremes to win the trust of the groups they're trying to infiltrate. It can already take several years to do this. Maybe future cops should adopt the adage used by aspiring politicians: Decide at age 5 and act accordingly.
It's a double-edged sword-- an undercover operative could do a search of pix online... contact whoever necessary to remove the pix, or better yet, rename yourself in pix where you appear-- enhancing your undercover... er... cover.
You could get the cooperation of Facebook or others, perhaps, as well, to enhance your alias.
Er... wouldn't someone who really wants to preserve their anonymity deliberately avoid things like company picnics? As long as you use a fake identity on social media and don't stick pictures of yourself online, you should be fine in general. Any criminal who wants to find out your true identity will have to dig a lot harder that way.
maybe so but it will also make harder to on bad guys to plan on the internet
Changing the name on posted pics wouldn't work- biometrics would finger you. The point may have been reached where the only way to do undercover work would be to turn an existing gang member.That has been done in the past.
Criminals could still plan on the internet using a proxy server like TOR and military grade encryption freeware,both of which are free.
1. Has the Witness Protection Program become obsolete?
2. Might the easiest way to discredit a gang rival be to photoshop him into a police pic and post it on the web?
3. Will pics and videos, as courtroom evidence, no longer be considered trustworthy after it gets too easy to fake them? That day cannot be far off.
An end to Secret Police? Terrible.
I think the witness protection program would still be useful,although the people being protected better make damn sure their recent photos don't show up online.
Yes,put your rival's photo on Facebook at the Police Picnic.
An expert can still tell if a photo has been faked by time of day shadows,etc.Saw some expert picking apart UFO shots that way.
What? They know he's Mr. James Band.
Uh I mean Bond
This'll also work on unmarked police cars as safety-cameras become more and more common and cars start talking to ech other.
Right now satnav can tell you where speed cameras are. Eventually somone will write some 'viral' software that gives cars the radar like ability to track those cars, or at least their license plates.
Easy. Bionic overlays that will change your facial features just enough to fool software.
Or law enforcement could . .do their jobs honestly? Just a thought.