Facebook and social networks making it harder to be an undercover cop

first_imgWe’ve all seen countless numbers of spy movies where the main character uses a fake identity to get close to their target. This sort of work doesn’t just happen in James Bond movies; covert police and intelligence operations do it all the times, and sometimes immerse themselves into a community for years. Take the news about the Anna Chapman and eight others who were living in a nice suburban community, unbeknownst to neighbors that they were really Russian spies.It was a lot easier to blend in with the crowd before Facebook (and other social networks) came along. Facial recognition technology is making it extremely difficult and almost impossible for undercover cops and intelligence agents to do their job. According to CSO, Australian Federal Police commissioner Mick Keelty said immersing someone into an organized crime group can take seven years to get them to the right place where they start getting the info they need from the crime group.At the Security 2011 Conference in Sydney, Keelty spoke about his research into how social networking affects covert operations. Keelty conducted a survey on all of the Australian Federal Police recruits and North South Wales police recruits as well as on some other state and national security agencies. He found that everyone under 26 years of age had uploaded their photo to the Internet, and 85 percent are using at least one major social networking site. About 47 of them were using the sites daily.He also found that 85 percent had their photos uploaded by another person, and 42 percent said it was possible to identify their relationships with other people through the photos. Facebook gets tens of million new images a day, so that in itself is a good resource, but governments and other organizations can also build their own image databases.The fact that a police officer’s photo could be visible to the wrong person is quite a scary thought. For example, Keelty said if you show up at the Australian embassy in Jakarta and say you’re the trade commissioner for education, and your photo from the Royal Military College graduation is up on a social network, your cover is blown.On the other hand, facial recognition can be used for good. Police can get a wealth of intelligence from social networks. For example, facial recognition was used to identify rioters during the recent London riots.Basically, if you’re a secret agent and you don’t want anyone to recognize your face in this day in age, you have to either get plastic surgery, or switch faces with another agent like in the movie “Face/Off” starring Nicholas Cage and John Travolta.via CSOlast_img read more

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