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Social media endangering undercover police work

We frequently read stories about law enforcement using social media to find and arrest criminals, but criminal organizations are also using online tools to help identify undercover police officers that try to infiltrate their ranks. With the growing use of facial recognition technology, it’s becoming easier to identify people online based purely on a picture.

As reported on TechWorld, former Australian Federal Police commissioner Mick Keelty discussed these dangers at a security conference in Sydney, Australia. The problem is that nearly everyone is using social media these days: Based on a recent survey, 90 percent of female officers and 81 percent of male officers were registered on at least one site and over 70 percent of the people admitted to using the sites on at least a weekly basis.

More alarming is that even people who don’t upload pictures of themselves to the Internet are still vulnerable. The survey found that 85 percent of respondents had their photos uploaded by someone else. This is dangerous for not only the undercover officer but also their friends and family since it links everyone together, allowing criminal organizations to get detailed personal information on the officer. Indeed, 42 percent of people claimed that it would be possible to identify their relationships based on these photos.

This issue not only affects current undercover officers but also teenagers who may someday want to work in the field. According to Keelty, “the 16-year-olds of today who might become officers in the future have already been exposed. It’s too late [for them to take it down] because once it’s uploaded, it’s there forever.

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