Technology has changed everything. High-tech is causing the changes to come at a pace which was unimaginable just a few years ago.
Privacy – as we knew it ten years ago – has evaporated. It is downright haunting to think about what can be learned about our personal lives by anyone with the time and technical skills to search for it.
My father passed away in January, 2000. I recall that just prior to his passing people were losing their minds: Y2K was predicted to bring calamity upon the entire universe because computers couldn’t handle the new century.
I remember working that night. I was with my partner that night. Just prior to midnight, he stopped the car under a bridge – just in case. We all remember the hype. Then: nothing. A big zero.
I have thoughts of my Dad and wonder what he would think if he were suddenly brought back to our world – today. Just think of the changes in just three areas:
- The internet
- Cell phones – which have become handheld computers
GIVING IT UP
For those of us in law enforcement, there is a whole array of new risks that have crept into our lives due to the advancement of technology. It has happened with almost no one taking notice.
BIG DATA. It is a term most of us have heard, but we don’t necessarily understand how it works or how it can be used.
The recent expose of the personal information of about a thousand ICE agents is a good (very bad) example. According to reports, some dirtbag used a powerful computer to search Linkedin (social media site for professional people) to find everyone who listed their employment as ICE.
Voila! Names, addresses, names of family members and all kinds of stuff those agents didn’t want in the hands of the bad guys is on the list.
Let’s put this in perspective. Imagine that someone did a trash pull at your house for a few weeks. All of the information on those scraps of paper, old envelopes and store receipts (grocery and pharmacy) could be fed into a super-computer.
What might someone learn about you?
The computer could spit-out a nicely organized report that revealed information about your eating habits, your health – even your sex life.
It could report on family members with details about each one, as well.
IT SEEMED HARMLESS AT THE TIME …
Now, think about social media: Facebook, Twitter and yes, Linkedin.
There is the stuff you put out on your personal pages. But, in addition, there is the information that your agency may be posting about you in press releases and community news.
What is your PIO giving to the media?
There are incident reports and other public records.
Realize that there are companies that exist making their money from gathering and organizing data. They assemble it for use by attorneys, insurance companies and yes, law enforcement agencies.
Some ccall them whores. They will sell what they have to anyone with money. And … like a prostitute, after they sell it, they still have it.
ISOLATED, BUT NOT ALONE
Individual pieces of information seem harmless. But, supposing through the aforementioned trash pulls, a computer combined these three items:
- An appointment card with a marriage counselor
- A window (billing) envelope from an attorney
- A matchbook from a local motel
What conclusion might be drawn? One item at time may not arouse suspicion. But, assembled together and someone may draw (or jump to) a conclusion – be it right or wrong.
ARE YOU GIVING IT UP?
Look at what information about you comes from your own agency.
Look at what you, your spouse and your kids are posting to social media sites.
Think about what a bad guy with a desire for revenge and a good computer might be able to pull together and use against you – or one of your family.
Suppose that this afternoon, you check the Home Depot website to see if they are having a sale on barbeque grills. Tomorrow, half the websites you visit have pop-up ads appearing for … you guessed it: barbeque grills. It can be annoying, to say the least.
If a convicted felon who you sent to jail gets released and plans to seek revenge, he might use similar tools to find you in a place and at a time you would least expect it. Then, it wouldn’t be annoying — it could be deadly.
At the bottom line, it’s all about saving just ONE life.
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