The U.S. Department of State and its embassy in Prague are sponsoring the contest to test ways social media and open source data can be used to track terrorists and locate missing children. Didn’t know the State Department looked for missing children… or terrorists, for that matter. I thought that was a local law enforcement function, and Interpol but certainly if an American child goes lost in a foreign country, they would be involved, so it could be a valuable tool…. except that predators might well be alerted as well.
The “game” being used to “offer government officials insight to “whether and how social media can be used to accomplish a realistic, time-sensitive, international law enforcement goal,” according to the Tag Challenge website. The social media game will be played by people in Washington D.C., New York City, London, Stockholm, Sweden and Bratislava, Slovakia on March 31. The “Suspects” will be wearing a special T-Shirt (hope it’s a warm day). Then you take a picture, upload it and try to win $5,000.
That might not be a great idea with an actual terrorist… might get you killed. Me? I’d duck into somewhere very private and dial 911. I think a drawback of this game might be that it could teach folks the wrong thing to do. Even if correct about identity… the last thing you want to do is show any sort of recognition: Poker face, not facebook.
The way the law enforcement folks track things now is via the use of certain words as filters. This new “game” could be used as a more efficient way to disseminate info about people deemed ‘security risks’ (and errors as well) and offer insight as to which demographics to watch for early signs of “discovery” of such an individual/s. That might be the State Dep’t. tie in… they have lots of photos of folks, but so do intelligence agencies. Makes more sense in the case of an American child missing abroad.
The “Tag-Challenge” will also yield info on the ‘epidemiology’ of how info spreads on Social Networks and how to utilize them more “efficiently”. It will also show how quickly the "suspects" are tagged as they move through these test cities' various areas using different modes of transportation. They might even be testing some new piece of software to find how quickly identification can be made, posted and “found” by that software and compare mug shot, populations, and locations. There will be lots of information for these graduate students to cull, though.
I also wonder if that will cause an increasingly intrusive law enforcement presence on the social sites? That might be a two edged sword in a certain circumstance. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has already stated the Government’s interest in utilizing Social Networks for emergency notifications. That isn’t a necessarily bad idea (if those sites are not used exclusively), but it’s not great either given the hacking/malware around… I was always hoping a real Emergency app would be developed that would apply to TV/radio/phones and the net simultaneously in an affected area, and wrote about one such in the past.
Anyway… just bringing the news and a bit of take on it. What appears certain to me though, is that this (and the subject) are a lot more than a “game”, and there’s a lot more at stake.