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Social Media a Threat To Undercover Cops

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the which-might-in-some-cases-be-a-good-outcome dept.

Facebook 252

angry tapir writes "Facebook has proven to be one of the biggest dangers in keeping undercover police officers safe, due to applications such as facial recognition and photo tagging, according to an adjunct professor at ANU and Charles Sturt University. Mick Keelty, a former Australian Federal Police commissioner, told the audience at Security 2011 in Sydney that because of the convergence of a number of technologies undercover policing may be 'impossible' in the future."

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252 comments

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Here's an idea. (5, Interesting)

ryanmcdonough (2430374) | more than 2 years ago | (#37216950)

Don't have a public profile and don't go out with friends and have them publicly tag your photos. Just an idea.

Re:Here's an idea. (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37216966)

No social interaction whatsoever, then..

Re:Here's an idea. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37217004)

Social interaction is not a problem, but a requirement for the officer is to not have had a facebook login, ever.
One could also require that the cops actually does a real and useful job. In those case it sould not be a problem to cooperate with facebook and ask dem to make sure that ther face recognition software checks doesn't match the officer in question, this will also solve the same problem with witness protection programs.
Even better would be a law that forbids face recognition without the possibility to opt out. This would make it possible for everyone and not just the police to avoid being tracked by facebook.

Re:Here's an idea. (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 2 years ago | (#37217126)

What if the criminals bribe a Facebook employee to acquire a copy of the database, or even just get a list of all the people on the list, etc? It's safer just to not have the profile at all if you are going to do serious undercover work.

Re:Here's an idea. (2)

PhilHibbs (4537) | more than 2 years ago | (#37217290)

Yes, but who thinks of that when they're 14? Not sure if Facebook can match up a picture of a 25 year old to their 14-year-old self though.

Re:Here's an idea. (3, Informative)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 2 years ago | (#37217344)

You needn't be part of Facebook to suddenly be profiled. All you need is a friend who's insensitive enough to tag you on their photo gallery.

Re:Here's an idea. (3, Interesting)

delinear (991444) | more than 2 years ago | (#37217608)

The point is you don't need to have an account for people to have added your photo, and soon anyone who wants to find out who you are will just be able to create an account, upload your photo and ask it to look for tagged matches and they'll instantly see the photos from the policeman's christmas ball or whatever. Your idea of not matching certain faces is unworkable for one simple reason: I create an account, I upload some guy's face to my wall and tag it, I create another account and upload the same photo as the owner's face. Facebook returns a "no matches found" message. Since I know the photo is there and is identical there's only one reason they'd return that message - you've just created a more reliable method of identifying undercover police that doesn't rely on tagging or matching blurry photos. The law against facial recognition is a nice idea that will never happen for one simple reason, it's potentially more useful to the authorities than the problems it creates.

Re:Here's an idea. (2)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 2 years ago | (#37217336)

no reckless social interaction? yes.

Being a drunken idiot and having friend that think every moment of their life must be on the internet? that's not social interaction. I know plenty of people that go out and have a lot of social interaction and do NOT get their face plastered all over the internet.

Re:Here's an idea. (1)

Kelbear (870538) | more than 2 years ago | (#37217700)

What about the times when the criminals the undercover cop is trying to be buddies with, ask him to friend them on facebook? It's no kiss of death, but not having a facebook page would make them at least think a little harder about the cop's identity. Making up a fake facebook profile be a little difficult since sooner or later it'll have to tie into real people rather than just spam accounts.

Re:Here's an idea. (1)

DrXym (126579) | more than 2 years ago | (#37217514)

No social interaction whatsoever, then..

Not if you're an undercover police officer, no. Or a spy. Or basically anybody where privacy is important to your wellbeing.

Re:Here's an idea. (3, Insightful)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 2 years ago | (#37217684)

If "social interaction" means "Facebook", then maybe not.

OTOH people managed to interact socially before Facebook. Weird but true.

Re:Here's an idea. (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37216970)

Don't have a public profile and don't go out with friends and have them publicly tag your photos. Just an idea.

But that takes actual communication with your friends, something social networking replaced.
Nowadays it's not hip to have common sense, basic reasoning skills or actually interact with friends any further than surface banter aimed to make you look cool to nobodies.

Re:Here's an idea. (1)

pyrosine (1787666) | more than 2 years ago | (#37216972)

Would be easier if facebook just offered an opt-out option (even better - make it default) for facial recognition

Re:Here's an idea. (5, Informative)

Nirvelli (851945) | more than 2 years ago | (#37217002)

They already do. It is, however, a bit hard to get to. [latimes.com]

Re:Here's an idea. (1)

bombastinator (812664) | more than 2 years ago | (#37217014)

If an undercover cop gets killed though it wouldn't be hard to sue facebook for wrongful death.

The thing about facebook is that what they do is sell identities. They sell information about you to people who can make money off that information. As such they want to gather as much information as possible and give you as little choice in the matter as they possibly can. It's wrong. But until companies get their noses rubbed in it they won't stop. They have the most hidden system they can legally get away with because they don't want people opting out, and they don;t care who gets hurt as long as it isn't them.

  I avoid facebook like the plague, but they probably have data on me anyway simply because people I know use it.

Re:Here's an idea. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37217256)

If an undercover cop gets killed though it wouldn't be hard to sue facebook for wrongful death.

You must be a lawyer... Please, please take my money, all of it

Re:Here's an idea. (4, Interesting)

Captain Hook (923766) | more than 2 years ago | (#37217202)

It's not just about face recognition. If I was in a group which was likely to attracted undercover police attention without the organisation being outright illegal, such as the various environmental groups that the police have been targetting here in the UK.

I would be asking to see the facebook profile of anyone trying to get into the group and if they don't have one or their profile only goes back a few months I would be extremely suspicious.

The police don't just need the ability to stop facial recognition, they need to be allowed to craft entire profiles, with back dated statuses, relationships which can withstand superficial checking etc.

You break the cover of spy by catching the little lies, and facebook gives you a lot of small pieces of information which must all tie to together to avoid suspicion.

Re:Here's an idea. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37217272)

What if a malevolent individual clones the facebook database? If a profile has been added retroactively a simple diff will show. No, what must be done by the police is to make fake profiles, and wait for them to mature

Re:Here's an idea. (5, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 2 years ago | (#37217366)

Old hacker's law dictates that any backdoor the police may have to any system will be abused, not only by the police but also by people who are smarter than the average cop who has to use the backdoor.

In other words, if you offer this service to the police, it will soon be abused by people who craft identities for other, even worse, purposes.

Re:Here's an idea. (3, Interesting)

Serious Callers Only (1022605) | more than 2 years ago | (#37217388)

I would be asking to see the facebook profile of anyone trying to get into the group and if they don't have one or their profile only goes back a few months I would be extremely suspicious.

So you'd only recruit idiots who have a Facebook profile - smart move for a clandestine organisation!

Re:Here's an idea. (2)

Captain Hook (923766) | more than 2 years ago | (#37217424)

I specifically said organisations which weren't illegal, and therefore have no need to be clandestine. Political protest groups for example are not illegal, although they organise public protests, here in the UK the police seem to spend a lot of time infiltrating such organisations and acting as agent provocateurs from within, enabling (if not being the outright drive force towards) illegal activity.

Re:Here's an idea. (1)

royallthefourth (1564389) | more than 2 years ago | (#37217468)

Looks like y'all followed our example [wikipedia.org] real well

Re:Here's an idea. (1)

corbettw (214229) | more than 2 years ago | (#37217474)

here in the UK the police seem to spend a lot of time infiltrating such organisations and acting as agent provocateurs from within

Same thing here in the US. Guess that apple didn't fall far from the tree, after all.

Re:Here's an idea. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37217454)

So you're saying that someone who doesn't have a Facebook account will likely not get into your group? What if they're boycotting it for good reason?

Personally, if someone DOES have a Facebook account, i would be suspicious. It's too easy to name as a reference, one that people often take for granted and for reliable in one way or another, as you yourself prove.

Re:Here's an idea. (1)

hardtofindanick (1105361) | more than 2 years ago | (#37216974)

From the article:

the 16-year-olds of today who might become officers in the future have already been exposed.

and

Of the people surveyed, 85 per cent had their photos uploaded on to the internet by another person.

Combine that with the problem of data retention, then this is really an issue.

But you win some you lose some. I did not hear the police complaining when they were allowed access to private profiles of people on facebook. Now it is the other way around, and the criminals dont even have to break law doing it.

Re:Here's an idea. (1)

ciderbrew (1860166) | more than 2 years ago | (#37217012)

They'll change the law.

Re:Here's an idea. (2)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 2 years ago | (#37217194)

We've been trying to get them to chage the law [projectcensored.org] for 40 years. Without victimless activities being illegal you don't need secret police.

Re:Here's an idea. (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 2 years ago | (#37217396)

Well, a German court (the Bundesverfassungsgericht, no less) recently ruled that alcohol (unlike, say, MJ) isn't consumed for its intoxicating quality, and hence alcohol is legal and MJ illegal.

I pondered this in the presence of ten beers yesterday and, yes, they're right. People sure do it for the great feeling the next day.

Don't look for sensibility in laws concerning drugs, sex or religion. It wastes your time and doesn't accomplish anything. Instead, get a good blowjob from a girl in a nun outfit while smoking a joint.

Re:Here's an idea. (1)

he-sk (103163) | more than 2 years ago | (#37217780)

How did I miss that ruling? Do you have a link? A quick google search only turned up a ruling regarding a prohibition on alcohol in Baden-Württenberg during the night and another ruling regarding the legality of alcohol testing ordered by the police.

Re:Here's an idea. (2)

PhilHibbs (4537) | more than 2 years ago | (#37217626)

Victimless crimes are the only crimes that need undercover cops? Where does that logic come from? So the police don't need to infiltrate the Mafia or terrorist groups?

Re:Here's an idea. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37216978)

Don't have a public profile and don't go out with friends and have them publicly tag your photos. Just an idea.

"If you got nothing to hide, you got nothing to fear!"

If you try to hide from facebook and similar services that itself may be enough to warrant suspicion in the future.

Re:Here's an idea. (0)

Gideon Wells (1412675) | more than 2 years ago | (#37217000)

What is the process of becoming an undercover cop? Your strategy works now if a person is becoming or is an undercover, but hasn't used social media before. The flaw in your logic is why "'impossible' in the future" is stated.

Give it ten, twenty years and you'll have a whole crop of people raised with social media. With there now being FaceBook Phones (well, phones with a hard button that links right to the facebook app), Twitter being tied more strongly into iOS 5, the day is coming fast if not here that most people won't think of social media as new but mundane.

You logic works only if this person grows up effectively never using a computer at all. Doesn't have any friends who upload photos of him to their social media. No newspaper has his photo on their websites for doing something newsworthy on their own or just being part of a group that does. Heck, joining the force and having his/her picture taken by the local press could occur.

Frankly, I wouldn't be surprised if the Amish start getting recruitment drives for this sort of work.

Re:Here's an idea. (1)

nospam007 (722110) | more than 2 years ago | (#37217122)

"What is the process of becoming an undercover cop?"

Instructor: Welcome do the undercover test. Did you ever have a Facebook account?
cop: Yes.
Instructor: Next!

Re:Here's an idea. (2)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 2 years ago | (#37217450)

Frankly, I wouldn't be surprised if the Amish start getting recruitment drives for this sort of work.

The problem with that is that Amish teens are encouraged (well, not quite, but pretty close to) to go out and explore the world of the "English" before they join the Church. I would not be surprised if the percentage of Amish youth with Facebook profiles is even higher than that of the general public.

Re:Here's an idea. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37217050)

Right, and the "criminals" your undercover work involves dealing with never use facebook, right?

Undercover operations may be necessary sometimes, but they are at best a necessary evil. Police get the monopoly of violence in return for abiding by and enforcing the law; and transparency is needed to "guard the guardians". Undercover work is by definition not transparent. Moreover, undercover cops (like informants and secret police in less happy times and places) undermine public trust in general and in the authorities. If the police lie about their identity and have elaborate schemes to fake their id and cover their tracks, how do we know that they won't lie about their intentions/actions and have elaborate schemes to fake evidence and cover their tracks?

Undercover work is ultimately a mean hopefully justified by a goal, but the whole point of the rule of law is that the means have to be justified in and of themselves.

Re:Here's an idea. (0)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 2 years ago | (#37217362)

Criminals are stupid. ragingly stupid.

They will check facebook only to find their buddies. they will not go searching for "dan the new guy"

Sample Bias (2)

coldfarnorth (799174) | more than 2 years ago | (#37217434)

The percentage of criminals who get caught who are "ragingly stupid" is likely higher than in the general criminal population. You just haven't heard about the smart ones. You know; the ones who would do diligent background checks, because they are careful and keep some idiots around to take the fall when things don't work out.

Also, never be photographed. (1)

denzacar (181829) | more than 2 years ago | (#37217084)

As in, never during your lifetime. You see a camera - duck, turn around, and run in the opposite direction.
You should make two whole steps before you run into another camera, if you're in an urban area.

Cause, you know... I can go and tag both Jesus, Elvis AND Mohammed on the photo of an empty wall - regardless if they have a Facebook account or not.
As for face recognition bit - the idea would be that you take a photo of a person, open an account with it and just let Facebook's face-recognizing algorithms do their thing.

Re:Also, never be photographed. (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 2 years ago | (#37217152)

That leaves people with facial reconstruction then. If the situation is serious enough, that would be warranted, and solves the problem..

Re:Also, never be photographed. (1)

bytesex (112972) | more than 2 years ago | (#37217516)

Nah. Just grow and dye your hair. Grow a mustache and beard. Get coloured contacts. Fake a limp. Wear a hat and something very noticeable in another place (a red chest pocket kerchief).

Re:Also, never be photographed. (1)

delinear (991444) | more than 2 years ago | (#37217754)

So long as the surgeon didn't get lazy and start giving all the undercover police the same face. It would be too ironic to change your face so nobody knew you were a cop only for Facebook to then identify you as a different cop who was no longer working undercover.

Here's a better idea. (4, Insightful)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 2 years ago | (#37217138)

Don't have secret police in the first place. "Undercover" cops have no place in a free society. Only police states have or need secret police. If social media makes the secret police impossible, GOOD!

As to the cop's safety, being a cop is nowhere near the top ten list of dangerous jobs. A taxi driver or construction worker is in far more danger than a cop.

Re:Here's a better idea. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37217178)

Yeah, because criminals only wear black turtle-necks and balaclavas all the time...

Undercover cops exist to infiltrate criminal organisations with their web-of-trust style group membership.

Political Secret Police, however, should not need to exist.

Re:Here's a better idea. (1)

Vintermann (400722) | more than 2 years ago | (#37217248)

Criminal organizations with web-of-trust style group membership?

Well, if they're stupid enough to be on facebook, I don't think infiltration will be very necessary.

Re:Here's a better idea. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37217208)

This isn't about a secret police to weed out people who aren't breaking the law but are still annoying to the powers that be, or imposing secret laws. This is about your regular cops, who are trying to infiltrate criminal organizations (such as ones organizing prostitution, extortion, smuggling, etc). Without undercover operatives, the best you can do against such a group is take out a few grunts, and watch more kids fill their places. You need to take out the leadership to make a real impact, and you need to infiltrate the organization to get close to them. Those are the officers that the article is talking about, and as long as there's organized crime, there will be a need for them in a free (but not anarchist ! ) society.

Re:Here's a better idea. (5, Interesting)

Vintermann (400722) | more than 2 years ago | (#37217280)

If you have the apparatus to infiltrate criminal organizations, you have the apparatus to infiltrate political organizations too [guardian.co.uk] .

You CAN do a lot to criminal organizations without infiltration. Infiltration has a high cost, in the form of increased paranoia, tribality and possibly brutality in the infiltrated groups. This worsens crime, and lessens defection.

Also, infiltration has a cost in the other direction - what it does to police departments and infiltrators themselves. When the police get used to betraying people's trust as part of their job, they start doing that in other ways, too. Adopting such means really is a slippery slope.

Re:Here's a better idea. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37217746)

This is about your regular cops, who are trying to infiltrate criminal organizations (such as ones organizing prostitution, extortion, smuggling, etc).

Funny, all the regular cops seem to use undercover operations for around here is to bust kids buying an eighth sack of weed...

Re:Here's a better idea. (2)

Syberz (1170343) | more than 2 years ago | (#37217614)

The day that the "free" society will stop committing crimes is the day that undercover police will not be needed to gather information in criminal organizations.

Re:Here's a better idea. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37217676)

But undercover cops make sense when catching real criminals, not all cops are against us "average nerd citizens", waiting until we get charged with piracy or some "modern/thought crime" bullshit to bust our skulls with gusto. Blame the politicians giving the bad orders.
When harmed by a weapon you don't blame the weapon, you blame the one wielding it.

And anyway, I have had my life saved by cops. That's more I can say of any civilian.

Take that copper (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37216956)

Is this a bad thing. All undercover cops are either going to plant evidence to ensure you are guilty, steal all your money and arrest you, or shoot you and dump a untraceable weapon. Seems to me this is correcting the behavior of the corrupt.

Re:Take that copper (1)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 2 years ago | (#37216988)

Not all cops do that. And in some cases undercover cops can very well be providing an alibi for you too, so it cuts both ways.

In any case - undercover cops aren't cost effective for catching small time criminals.

Best is to not commit any crimes.

Re:Take that copper (1)

rollingcalf (605357) | more than 2 years ago | (#37217026)

"In any case - undercover cops aren't cost effective for catching small time criminals."

Ever watch Cops, or Police Women of Broward County? They use undercover cops all the time to catch small time drug dealers and buyers, and guys looking for prostitutes. Although social media probably won't hurt them, given that they often expose the undercover cops faces on TV but they're still able to fool people for more than 1 season.

Re:Take that copper (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37217462)

seems that the Secret Whoremonger Society needs to better brief their members.

Re:Take that copper (1)

Trepidity (597) | more than 2 years ago | (#37217102)

Best is to not commit any crimes.

This particular strategy doesn't help you if the cops plant evidence to close out a case.

Re:Take that copper (2)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 2 years ago | (#37217264)

Not all cops do that.

True, but far too many do. As we found in the 1920s, prohibition of intoxicants breeds corruption.

In any case - undercover cops aren't cost effective for catching small time criminals.

Half of all arrests in the US are for misdemeanor marijuana possession. THAT's what the secret police are for -- to catch pot smokers. You can't catch armed robbers with secret police.

Re:Take that copper (2)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 2 years ago | (#37217426)

What if the law becomes a tool to criminalize those that dare to stand up against an unjust regime?

People who follow the law, no matter what this law may be like, is what makes dictatorships possible in the first place. There were not many people who liked that Nazi ideology. Or the Commie one, for that matter. There were rather few who were die-hard supporters. There were just many who don't give a shit how they're governed and who just follow the rules, without questioning whether those rules are just and 'right'.

Not questioning laws is dangerous. Question them! Test them against your moral code and see if they hold up against it. And please note that I do not say "to hell with the laws, laws are evil". I do not ask you to break the law, no matter what (it's about as bad as following the law, no matter what), I do expect people to be willing and able to see if the laws stand the test of their personal morals. Because that's what laws generally (should) codify: The common consensus what is "right" and what is "wrong".

Re:Take that copper (1)

Stormthirst (66538) | more than 2 years ago | (#37216996)

You have a very jaded view of your police force.

Re:Take that copper (4, Interesting)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 2 years ago | (#37217160)

Most cops are corrupt. Here in Lake County, California we finally got a Sheriff who actually wants to change things. Here is an article on him being cleared of certain wrongdoings [record-bee.com] . Because our police force is so very corrupt (with ties to meth production and such) he did not inform them of a bust the sheriff's department was conducting. The cops found out anyway and showed up to point guns at them just to fuck up the whole operation, because the bust was against one of their cronies.

Why do I say most cops are corrupt? Because if you're a cop and you cover for a bad cop, you are precisely as bad as he is. You are precisely as responsible for his actions, because it is your job to attempt to prevent and to help bring people to justice for these actions. You are instead a traitor to the American people, and I hope you die of ball cancer.

Re:Take that copper (1, Insightful)

DarwinSurvivor (1752106) | more than 2 years ago | (#37217320)

So one screwed up city proves that most cops everywhere are corrupt? That is pretty much the definition of anecdotal evidence.

I personally know at least a half-dozen cops (through various organizations I am involved in) and I can't see a single one of them doing anything like that.

It's amazing that "cops are evil" is about the only FUD that is not only accepted by slashdot, but actively PROMOTED. You people either need to stop getting your information about cops from Fox News or stop peddling meth through your mail slot!

Re:Take that copper (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 2 years ago | (#37217378)

It's amazing that "cops are evil" is about the only FUD that is not only accepted by slashdot, but actively PROMOTED.

There is a forest of anecdotes. I was pointing out endemic corruption.

I personally know at least a half-dozen cops (through various organizations I am involved in) and I can't see a single one of them doing anything like that.

Like what?

Re:Take that copper (2)

delinear (991444) | more than 2 years ago | (#37217804)

I personally know at least a half-dozen cops (through various organizations I am involved in) and I can't see a single one of them doing anything like that.

You can't see them showing up at a bust to disrupt it or you can't see them covering for their friends and colleagues or turning a blind eye?

Re:Take that copper (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 2 years ago | (#37217282)

Reading the newspaper or living in a bad neighborhood will do that to you. Ironically, in the place where you're in most danger of criminals, even the law-abiding residents fear the police more than they fear criminals.

Solution (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37216992)

DON'T USE FACEBOOK.

Duh... cops are so dumb.

and corrupt..

and evil...

but that's another story.

Lets start by trying to fix the dumb.

Re:Solution (1)

Khyber (864651) | more than 2 years ago | (#37217168)

You aren't fixing the dumb when dumb is a requirement for the police force.

Re:Solution (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 2 years ago | (#37217442)

Could we start with the others. Dumb, corrupt and evil cops sounds a lot better than smart, corrupt and evil cops.

Like they always say (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37217008)

...if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.

Wait.

Technology will make under cover police redundant (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37217070)

"because of the convergence of a number of technologies" governments won't need undercover police in the future.

Don't use the new "aol.com" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37217080)

The solution seems simple, just don't use the latest "aol.com" of the internet. Facebook, for those who don't get the reference, is essentially nothing more than what aol.com was during its heyday. A secluded, walled garden, where nothing gets in or out unless you have drank the kook-aid and become a member.

yes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37217128)

Yes they deserve to die and i hope they burn in hell.

The more you invade our privacy (2)

Khyber (864651) | more than 2 years ago | (#37217158)

The less you have in return. Especially for the government, it seems.

Pretty soon, the people you track will know where all of you are, and then it's their game, not yours.

but Facebook works for them too! (1)

kubitus (927806) | more than 2 years ago | (#37217162)

they can identify dealers etc easily.

and their image sources will include surveillance cams

so social active criminals will face a tough time.

Re:but Facebook works for them too! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37217576)

Indeed. Isn't it in Minority Report that everyone goes through iris scan (and facial scan?) upon exiting a subway or any public place? Sounds like that would pin-point any criminal you're looking for (unless, they...amm...tear their eyes out), and if you ever catch someone on suspicion of something, you can dig up a lot more details about their whereabouts forever into the past---their associations (other suspects they talked to or sat next to in the park, etc.).

If anything, being an "illegal" type mobster would become really difficult---so all of them will have to legitimately run for office and steal/cheat via legal means.

It cuts both ways... (4, Insightful)

gr8_phk (621180) | more than 2 years ago | (#37217170)

Facebook has helped the police get dirt on people in many cases. Don't be surprised when it works the other way too.

Re:It cuts both ways... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37217430)

I learned after the fact how usefully looking up a manager would have been. I had a choice to work for a couple of different managers in a company I worked. The one I choose turned out to be the bottom of the barrel there. After a day of being very frustrated with him, I started to look online to see if he stupidly had put something up anywhere. If I had seen before, I wouldn't had even considered his group. A lot of details, but he himself said he has issues.

Best news I've heard all year... (3, Insightful)

bistromath007 (1253428) | more than 2 years ago | (#37217186)

Everything we lose in security will be gained tenfold in liberty if undercover policing shits the bed.

Prohibition (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37217404)

I don't know exactly what percentage of undercover operations go to supporting the immoral, unjust, and self-serving disaster of prohibition, but I'm willing to bet it's over 50%. In that case, I hope their entire undercover business goes down. (And it certainly is a business -- from the perspective of the elite who built the temple of prohibition, the objective was always the multi billion-dollar budget, not solving "crime").

NOT very good cops (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37217200)

does anyone else see quality of cop going into a toilet also since 9/11 and they complain OH WE got ya we know your a narc .....
haha everything works both ways. THERE is a saying....Don't be good, be good at what you do.....

Gee wonder what that means....

Mis-Tag, False ID (5, Interesting)

retroworks (652802) | more than 2 years ago | (#37217212)

You create a fake Facebook profile and mistag-yourself everywhere. You have a police department staff scan photos and mistag you. With a little more effort, Facebook could become the best thing that ever happened for people setting up false identities. But Facebook has to let you mis-tag yourself. I started a Facebook Group "Data Camouflage Anonymous" for the purpose of mis-tagging and mis-identifying photos (to water down the facial recognition database) and within a day found my "tagging" ability turned off by Facebook. http://www.facebook.com/groups/151915044879668/ [facebook.com] Facebook should be no more reliable at facial data than they are at birthday records (which are a joke).

Re:Mis-Tag, False ID (1)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 2 years ago | (#37217220)

You're trying to poison the well, which is an effective answer to datamining but given the size of Facebook's userbase you're going to need homeopathy for it to be effective.

Viginantes are the answer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37217218)

Well, look @ the bright side. When a crime is committed, the same technology that puts cops @ risk will put criminals @ risks, assuming that the cops won't do anything to them. The answer, then, would be for lone vigilantes to track down these criminals using those surveillance pictures, do an ID check on them - the capability of which would no longer be limited to law enforcement agencies - and then stalk the criminals in question and do whatever the vigilante thinks is appropriate.

Mark my words - the same namby-pamby defender of criminals and police-haters out there will be yelping like yorkers for the cops to be out, once such vigilantes take the law into their own hands and start hunting down such criminals. In fact, make such a line of work something that specialized contractors do for a fee - something like collection agencies. And if you do have criminal advocates, such as the ACLU, try and file cases against them, since they are vigilantes and not police, have them hunt down any lawyers who would pursue them for their vigilante actions, so that anybody in civil society would be scared to confront them. Oh, and they won't be accountable to the executives of any city, state or federal, as police always are, so nobody can even go after the government for them being loose.

Enough such activity, say for a year or two, and you'll see all defense lawyers and advocates in the country begging for normal police surveillance, and promising all sorts of checks & balances to ensure that normal law-enforcement activity is not hindered.

Image processing keeps getting cheaper (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 2 years ago | (#37217222)

I note that these days you can just get a library to do stuff like find elements of a face... it's only a matter of time before recognizing cops from biometrics is feasible. ID them with a webcam at the door. Get someone to grab some photos of the photos of graduating classes for data to stock it with, should be easy since future cops are edumacated at our finest public institutions. Er, I mean, our crappy community colleges.

Wrestling Masks ! (1)

DrYak (748999) | more than 2 years ago | (#37217440)

I note that these days you can just get a library to do stuff like find elements of a face... it's only a matter of time before recognizing cops from biometrics is feasible.

Or, it's only a matter of time until wearing "Lucha Libre [wikipedia.org] "-style masks on all social occasions, because everybody is just fed up of being publicly outed for anything silly they've done, lose jobs because of party-behaviours while on week-end etc.

That or "programmable tatoo" and/or plastic surgery becoming suddenly infinitely more affordable.

7 years into a known criminal gang???? (2)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 2 years ago | (#37217226)

7 years into a known criminal gang? what the fuck kind of policing is this, assist & switch? they would have to know that it's a criminal gang to have ethical reasoning for infiltrating - and in that case they certainly wouldn't have good reasons to let it keep going on for seven friggin' years. that's not infiltration, that's living a lifestyle - that's being fabric of the criminal gang, that's giving motivation to the criminal gang if you hang around with them for seven frigging years while they don't get busted, so they're having a part in spurring the crime they're supposed to prevent while messing with peoples lives.

because, suppose that they don't even bust them. they made an artificial, constructed impact on the people they interacted with and that's messed up, peoples political etc motives depend on the people they know so government invented shill persons shouldn't be on the list unless you want to copy STASI.

""If you have someone in the service who is trying to remain anonymous for whatever reason, it is still possible through other relationships to find them," Keelty said. " no shit, it always was. and anonymous isn't the right word here, FAKE person is the right word. but this issue is just highlighting issues that existed in their covert police operations long before this - and that they seemed to prefer guys who never appeared in a yearbook. actually they could fix this by hiring immigrants to police their kids, as they want people who had been invisible and never appeared anywhere.

Re:7 years into a known criminal gang???? (1)

Legal.Troll (2002574) | more than 2 years ago | (#37217340)

"they would have to know that it's a criminal gang to have ethical reasoning for infiltrating - and in that case they certainly wouldn't have good reasons to let it keep going on for seven friggin' years."

Bullshit. You're a moron.

Re:7 years into a known criminal gang???? (1)

rwv (1636355) | more than 2 years ago | (#37217656)

7 years into a known criminal gang?

Spying and espionage is a long game. People get the best information by building trust. If the cops can get 1 or 2 moles into every major criminal group in the world they can blow the whistle when any single one of those groups decides it's time to commit a major crime. Small crimes like drug dealing and minor intra-gang warfare are an easy pill to swallow when law-abiding citizens safety is maintained.

what the fuck kind of policing is this, assist & switch?

A mole in The Taliban / Al Qaeda in 1999-2001 would have been a true blessing. You don't get there by starting in 1999, though. You start in 1993-1995. Like I said, it's a long game. For some people, the potential of silently and unceremoniously saving thousands of their countrymen's lives is enough motivating factor to expose themselves to this lifestyle.

Re:7 years into a known criminal gang???? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37217732)

The idea of infiltrating a criminal organization is to bust the head honcho or at least the ones closest to him, not the little fish. I'd like to see you try to work yourself up to the boss' circle of trust when you're given a deadline of, let's say 2 years?

Good (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37217250)

This is a good thing.

greed/fear/ego based execrable threat to life (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37217284)

the 'mainstream' media can tout, or hide (constantly) anything it wants (eow events, alien invasion rumors etc) to generate fear, compliance etc..., whilst the 'security forces' fire anti-aircraft rounds at those with opposing (reality based) views. the population must not have any recourse to dispel the fatal distraction buybull generated by an obsoletely failed plan to disempower/destroy us? can this even remotely be called 'weather'?

disarm. tell the truth. post the results of your endeavors everywhere. stay out from under the falling gargoyles. read the teepeeleaks etchings. see you there?

Re:greed/fear/ego based execrable threat to life (1)

Kelbear (870538) | more than 2 years ago | (#37217810)

Man, I always look forward to your posts. You really can't fake that kind of writing. Do you have a blog or twitter feed where I can see more?

Here's a novel idea... (1)

MikeRT (947531) | more than 2 years ago | (#37217288)

Don't post your pictures and employment info online if you're a cop and ever want to do this work. Cops know that this work is what gets them the big promotions. If they want to advance their careers, being discrete on Facebook will just be de rigeur for them.

Do you see the CIA's clandestine service going "OH NOES WE CANT USE TEH FACEBOOK?" Of course not. If and when they get sent overseas, they don't want to end up in a ditch because they moronically outed themselves on Facebook.

Re:Here's a novel idea... (3, Insightful)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 2 years ago | (#37217298)

you're missing the point, they can't even associate themselfs with OTHER people using facebook or social media, because if they appear on some wedding photos etc for some family, you know that there's an association there. basically the same sort of stuff that would have gotten them busted before if the bad guys would have hired a private eye to do some digging.

Re:Here's a novel idea... (2)

geekmux (1040042) | more than 2 years ago | (#37217518)

you're missing the point, they can't even associate themselfs with OTHER people using facebook or social media, because if they appear on some wedding photos etc for some family, you know that there's an association there. basically the same sort of stuff that would have gotten them busted before if the bad guys would have hired a private eye to do some digging.

In other words, the risk has always been there, and therefore this entire story and hype is pure and utter bullshit.

Facebook hasn't changed a damn thing with regards to undercover officers being exposed, save for making it cheaper to expose them. That's about it. If a criminal is hell-bent on doing harm to an undercover officer, they're going to spend money and effort anyway, just as they have had to do in the past. Facebook doesn't change that hardly at all.

Re:Here's a novel idea... (2)

black soap (2201626) | more than 2 years ago | (#37217760)

You've never been to a semi-public event where people asked not to be photographed, or asked that photographs not be published? Sometimes even former agents/officers/employees who did work outside the country will avoid being in the publicity photos, stand aside in group photos, etc., because their face might be recognized. It isn't just abused women and witness-protection-program w/ new names trying to avoid getting their pictures published. I guess people like that can't go in bars/public places any more.

And before long, privacy will be even more impossible - you can be tracked down, and your history at a place can be verified. It will be harder to create a fake identity, (or one that doesn't have obvious holes in it), but it will also be harder to escape some obsessed stalker or crazy ex or jilted 3rd world arms dealer, unless you totally drop out of society.

The future (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37217292)

The SockPuppets are taking over for them. The new and ultimate officer of the future will be AI, programmed to seek and destroy dynamic thinking, and uploaded with 666 terabytes of variations of all known bovine memes. It will simply tell you that you don't recognize it, and you'll obey.

Just waiting for a new law with the justification: (1)

riboch (1551783) | more than 2 years ago | (#37217358)

But think of the police.

Update your profile (2)

haploc (57693) | more than 2 years ago | (#37217376)

Just remove "Undercover cop" from your profile and you're done.
Nice and easy peasy.

Fuck the police (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37217392)

What about the rest of us, you know, real people?

Privacy no longer exists. (2)

kurt555gs (309278) | more than 2 years ago | (#37217456)

Sorry coppers, you started this. We now live in a world where constitutional protections of privacy are nothing more than symbolic and viewed by school kids on field trips on an old parchment document of the past.

I don't feel sorry for the undercover cops one bit. In Chicago, where I live we have a saying, What goes around, comes around!

See ya on Facebook!

How's that shoe fitting? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37217554)

"...one of the biggest dangers in keeping undercover police officers safe, due to applications such as facial recognition and photo tagging."

Oh, the irony here. Funny how the shoe doesn't fit so well when it's on the other foot, now does it, officer?

Perhaps now you can feel what it's like first hand to have your liberties stripped from you with little regard for you or your privacy.

Don't be stupid. (1)

JustAnotherIdiot (1980292) | more than 2 years ago | (#37217814)

Facebook has proven to be one of the biggest dangers in keeping undercover police officers safe, due to applications such as facial recognition and photo tagging

You want an undercover cop? Change his face. We /do/ have that technology, you know.

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