Facebook as a crime fighting tool?
My aunt Marilyn forwarded me this interesting article: “Victim uses Facebook to finger suspect“. How would a victim use facebook to find an anonymous attacker and how does search using facebook differ from more traditional means? Unfortunately, the article doesn’t really delve into those issues but I thought I just share a few speculations.
First, facebook lets you browse pictures of people based on where they live. Each user and his or her friends usually keep pictures current. Second, you can view multiple pictures and video on many people that can help you get a better idea whether you have a match or not. Third, you can see groups and affiliations that might help you hone on someone who was more likely to commit a hate crime.
Unless you belong to the same network (e.g., attend the same school), you can currently only browse names and pictures. My best guess from this article is that the victim took the initiative to find the attacker, so I bet that both the victim and the attacker went to the same school.
But if facebook can be used to fight crime, should law enforcement have privileged access to it? And if so, how comfortable are we with public or secret investigations into broad swaths of innocent people? Finally and relatedly, how concerned should we be at the possibility of false positives (e.g., framing the wrong guy)? I don’t have answers to these questions, but I think we should follow cases like this one to see how well facebook works in practice as a crime fighting tool.