Facebook, Twitter Could Compromise Undercover Operations, Says Australian Federal Officer
August 27, 2011 11:09 AM
The problem with a police officer's identity being displayed on these networks is that it can compromise a covert operation and ultimately the safety of the officers involved
Facebook has alarmed several users and regulators with some of its features, such as
facial recognition technology
, due to privacy issues. Now, Australian police officers worry that social networking sites with features such as photo tagging could place them in danger.
Mick Keelty, a former Australian Federal Police (AFP) commissioner, says he's concerned that a police officer's identity being placed on the Internet through social networking could pose a threat to their safety.
At a recent conference in Sydney, Australia called
, Keelty mentioned that he is engaging in research associated with the policy implications of social networking for undercover operations by police officers.
One of his most recent studies was conducted with the New South Wales (NSW) police between December 2010 and February 2011.
"We surveyed them to try and measure the
extent of exposure
they already had in having their photos uploaded to the Internet," said Keelty. "The results found that 90 percent of female officers were using social media compared with 81 percent of males."
Facebook was the most popular social network, and
took second place.
The problem with a police officer's identity being displayed on these networks is that it can compromise a covert operation and ultimately the safety of the officers involved.
"You can't just immerse an officer into a crime group; it takes up to seven years to get them into the right place [in the gang] where they can feed back the intelligence that you need," said Keelty. "Then there is the cost of doing that such as when the AFP targets motorcycle gangs or when governments across the world have entered into agreements to place critical witnesses in prosecution matters in different parts of the world to hide them."
Keelty further explained that 16-year-old's who have Facebook's now and want to be police officers when they're older are at risk because these photos have already been exposed. Even if they're taken down or removed by Facebook (which, Facebook only started allowing after Google+ started removing photos for those requesting it), there's still the chance of that person's friends or family posting pictures of them. Photo tagging and facial recognition technology only make the matter worse.
"It's too late [for them to take it down] because once it's uploaded, it's there forever," said Keelty. "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."
According to Keelty's survey, 85 percent of participants had photos of themselves uploaded by other people.
will be considered in future policy guidelines for police agencies.
"A lot of people pay zero for the cellphone ... That's what it's worth." -- Apple Chief Operating Officer Timothy Cook
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