The most comprehensive police database: Facebook

Summary:Over the last few decades, police intelligence gets better through technological means. Before they used pen and paper, and the only way to cross reference files was by means of filing.

Over the last few decades, police intelligence gets better through technological means. Before they used pen and paper, and the only way to cross reference files was by means of filing. Nowadays with specific databases for different crimes - the PND, ViSOR, the UK DNA database, ANCHORY, FBI Guardian, and individual sex offenders registers for each US state.

There sure is a lot of data out there about us - whether we have committed a crime or not. I'm on the UK Police National Computer by default because I have a driving license, not to mention on the UK Biometrics database because I have a passport. It sucks, but we live with it.

However, recently, police forces and constabularies around the globe have been using Facebook as a new social medium to "connect" with its younger population; it seems to be the most popular way to communicate for ordinary folks, why can't the police use it too? Some questions came to light regarding the police presence on Facebook, especially with some of the applications created to enable users to feel more updated with local policing news in their areas - or so it seems.

By adding certain applications, you're opening yourself up to be viewed by police officers on the other end of the line. When adding any application, you have to tick a box (though already checked) to allow your information and who you are to be given to the application. According to Guilherme Roschke of the EPIC, wrote in a research article, "Law enforcement use of applications will significantly expand the reach of what law enforcement can see, and also provides a more surreptitious viewing ability." There's no doubt in my mind this is a good idea - reach out to people on their terms, on a medium they relate to. On the other hand, the flip-side to this is, can they see what I'm really doing? Yes, yes, oh my God yes... if you're not careful. I'm an upstanding citizen and I respect the law - but students have been caught out. According to (I presume Illinois?):

While University Interim Chief of Police Kris Fitzpatrick did not give an exact number of police officers who have accounts on Facebook or could say how often it is used by the department, [We] were able to identify 16 police officers with accounts on Facebook by searching for department member's e-mail addresses. None of the profiles state the owner is a police officer at the University, although some state they are "UIllinois Staff."

Thankfully you'll have some switched on students who know about this and decide to leave a little prank on the police themselves:

But this time, when the campus police showed up, they found 40 students and a table of cake and cookies, all decorated with the word 'beer.' "We even set up a cake-pong table," a twist on the beer-pong drinking game, he says. "The look on the faces of the cops was priceless."

Considering social networking and social media has been the heart of this post, I'd personally like to welcome a new colleague to the circle, Jennifer Leggio, who writes the ZDNet blog Feeds because “microblogginglifestreamingbloggingpodcastingetc” was far too long". It's added to my favourites, you should definitely have a read.

Topics: Enterprise Software, Data Centers, Data Management, Hardware, Social Enterprise, Storage


Zack Whittaker is a writer-editor for ZDNet, and sister sites CNET and CBS News. He is based in the New York newsroom. His PGP key is: EB6CEEA5.

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