“We’ll solve any crime by dinnertime” -Detectives Mary-Kate & Ashley Olsen
I have to admit, there is something about crime scene investigation television and movies that I absolutely love. I used to tell my parents growing up that I wanted to be an FBI Agent someday, and while that may have not come true, to me there’s no better night than curling up on the couch watching some Dexter! The role that social media and digital technologies have been playing in the crime scene (no pun intended) in recent years has completely changed the roles of both committing and solving crimes. I’m fascinated with the extremes people go through to find out information, whether it’s by Facebook stalking or purely hacking into a victim’s data. I’ve outlined some examples that really made me bat an eye to my personal security, but also give me hope that we are on the right track to win the battle in fighting crime.
There’s no denying that social media and emerging technologies are providing us with features and data that we haven’t had access to in the past. In actual crime investigations, crimes are literally being solved based off social media posts. Detectives, Reporters, and really anyone with Internet access is now able to piece together crimes based off photos that have been posted on readily accessible social media such as Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat. Watching Snapchat or Instagram stories have been used to understand chronologically what events have taken place during a victim’s day. Twitter has also been used by detectives to spot potential criminals before they act based on just a few sentences of data. Search histories and user data additionally help identify criminals.
An even more prolific example of solving crime revolves around our favorite giant, Amazon. Now, if you own an Amazon Echo, better known as Alexa, you know your voice is recorded so that it can accurately respond to what you are asking. The recordings are stored within its processing system and can be reviewed at a later time, according to Amazon. While Amazon’s system collecting this data could endlessly be debated revolving around breaching privacy rights, the Echo has none-the-less been used multiple times now in court to provide evidence in murder convictions. Whether or not you think your devices are listening according to the settings you provide, the moral is you never know. You could look at this as violating your rights, but I also am beyond impressed in the good it could do for a jury to have this type of evidence, for instance.
With the good, also comes the ugly. The following summaries are just two examples of how cybersecurity and the threats of hackers today is more worrisome than ever.
I felt incredibly left out that I wasn’t part of the Apple X fad last year and what I thought was such an amazing feature of facial recognition. This feature literally epitomizes my younger self stepping into that role of solving crimes. While Apple has facial recognition, Samsung also has a phone with an iris scanning feature that allows for equivalent results. While this iris scanning feature was supposed to be decently indestructible, hacker’s results proved differently. A certain bank in Europe was allowing all bank transactions to be released to a customer by using iris scanning on their mobile app. Hacker’s found a pretty straightforward way around this by zooming in on an individual’s Facebook photo to clearly get a visual of their eye or even simpler, by using a contact lens. Believe it or not both these methods seemed slightly ridiculous to me, but have completely changed my feelings on the safety of any type of facial recognition. Buyers beware!
Another slightly terrifying technological example flew my direction by the way of my many pregnant friends. Just recently, a family in Texas was using the Nest camera to monitor their newborn baby. The Nest, connected through Wi-Fi, allows consumers to watch their baby in this instance, through an app on their smart devices. The Texas family was awoken one evening with the sound of a man’s voice over the monitor conveying disturbing messages including that if they attempted to head to the baby’s room he would kidnap their child. When the parents arrived in the baby’s room moments later, the baby was safe and sound, which is when they realized they’d been hacked over Wi-Fi. To know that someone could be watching you because of your Internet and video connection is distressing. This is one way I will not be using technology in the future. Good old-fashioned baby monitors without Wi-Fi will suffice.
While there are many scary ways digital technologies are being used, I’m still on the pros side of solving crimes with what has emerged! I hope that technology and social media can be used more and more to provide justice to those who deserve it.
On another note, if you haven’t yet watched the new hit Netflix show, “You,” maybe refrain if you’re nervous about what social media can result in.