Social media brings out the snitch in all of us — Tech News and Analysis
Twitter and Facebook can be powerful tools for reporting on important events, including the uprisings in Egypt’s Tahrir Square and the raid that killed Osama bin Laden — but they can also become a powerful tool for surveillance as well, as the police and government authorities in Egypt and other countries have shown. What happens when we turn these tools of public surveillance on one another? We got a glimpse of that in Vancouver, British Columbia, on Wednesday, after the final game in the NHL playoffs, when citizens started posting photos of themselves rioting in the streets — and it’s a glimpse of a future some would rather not see.
As the riots were occurring, with hundreds of people reportedly injured and cars and buildings burned and looted, photos of those involved in the incidents started showing up on Twitter and on other social networks such as Facebook and Tumblr. Soon people were collecting them and asking for others to contribute — both on a Tumblr blog dedicated to the riots and on a Facebook page called “Vancouver Riot Pics: Post Your Photos” — and others were passing photos around on Twitter asking others to identify the people in them.
The local police also asked for help in identifying rioters and other lawbreakers. There’s no doubt that all of those crowdsourced photos would certainly help in that effort (police asked on Twitter for those with photos to hang onto them), especially since Facebook recently launched a facial-recognition service that auto-tags photos based on the suggestions of other users, something that critics have said is an invasion of privacy.