Title: The Impact Of Social Networking And Other Technologies On Covert Policing
Professor Nick O’Brien, School of Policing, Charles Sturt University, Canberra Australia
Strategies and tactics to deal with organised crime and other serious criminal issues have included the use of undercover officers who use an assumed identity. This method of operating by police is widespread throughout the world and in Australia it has been legitimised by the introduction of various ‘Assumed Identities’ Acts.
The last five years have seen an exponential rise in the popularity of online social networking which has included users posting photographs of themselves and other people on the internet, often ‘tagging’ the photographs with names of the people depicted. This has coincided with an increase in the effectiveness of facial recognition software to the extent that it is included in the standard package of some computers. At least one brand of computer allows users to log on using facial recognition software.
‘Smart phones’ which allow users to take relatively high resolution pictures and log onto the internet are also increasingly popular. ‘Cloud computing’ has allowed the ordinary user access to computer power and storage that was previously only available to governments and the military.
The question the researchers ask is ‘will the convergence of social networking and other technologies make the use of undercover policing redundant as society is rapidly approaching a point where everyone’s true identity can be obtained?’
Before joining Charles Sturt University, Nick represented the UK Association of Chief Police Officers -‐
Terrorism and Allied Matters Committee (ACPO-‐TAM) as the Counter Terrorism and Extremism Liaison Officer (CTELO) at the British High Commission in Canberra. Nick covered Australasia and had a ‘watching brief’ on the Asia and the Pacific region.
Prior to this posting Nick was in charge of International Counter Terrorism in Special Branch at New Scotland Yard, London. Nick has also represented the UK at Europol, the G8 Counter Terrorism Practitioners meetings and the European Police Working Group on Terrorism. Nick first started working in the counter terrorism related area in 1981 and has worked on Irish as well as international terrorism. Nick has written for various publications and has appeared on radio and television commentating on terrorist related matters.
Nick is a visiting Fellow at the Jakarta Centre for Law Enforcement Co-‐operation in Indonesia. He sits on the Board of Management of the Australian Graduate School of Policing and is an adjunct academic at the Australian National University (ANU).