As the saying goes, once you put it online it’s there forever. Last week, the former Australian Federal Police commissioner, Mick Keelty, presented data to the Security 2011 Conference in Sydney, showing how risky social media can be to the future of undercover operations within law enforcement.
To start, Keelty outlined data from a survey conducted with the AFP, the NSW Police, and other security agencies, conducted three months (December 2010 - February 2011). The data shows that current and future undercover law enforcement officials are often unknowingly exposed to a wide range of risk thanks to social media.
“We surveyed them [law enforcement agents] to try and measure the extent of exposure they already had in having their photos uploaded to the internet,” he told those attending his talk.
Facial recognition software on sites such as Facebook or elsewhere online could out an officer even if the image is decades old. Of those in the study, 85-percent could be exposed by photos someone else uploaded to a given service. Others can be linked to tags within the images themselves.
On top of that, the links within social profiles can often identify family and significant others. Some 42-percent of those who took part in the study reported that it would be easy to identify their relationship with other people by looking at their connections.
“The thinking we had with this result means that the 16-year-olds of today who might become officers in the future have already been exposed,” Keelty noted.
The same technologies also cause issues with witness protection, as well as expose some to extortion or other crimes. Still, there is a goldmine of information on social networks he said, so the trade of risk versus reward can still be leveraged.
CSO Australia has some additional coverage.