Criminals of the 21st century have a wide variety of free, innovative and easily accessible tools at their fingertips. With the launch of Google Maps share location StreetView back in 2007, criminals quickly realized what an incredible opportunity this technology presented. From the comfort and confines of their own home, they now had the ability to do virtual reconnaissance without the worry of getting caught or raising red flags; hence the importance of programs like neighborhood watch where eyes and ears on the ground can often times prevent a crime from ever occurring.
By utilizing maps StreetView, Criminals could do the following:
- Locate entrances and exits
- Map out escape routes
- Pinpoint the locations of security gates and placement of cameras, sensors and monitors
- Identify hiding spots
- Obtain personal identity information via license plates of cars on the driveway in addition to materials on or surrounding the home
- Note the make/model and number of vehicles in the driveway at one time
Fortunately, virtual reconnaissance remained limited to the exterior…that is until Microsoft responded with Bing Maps streetview & Local features (Street View) giving users the ability to obtain interior views of businesses as well. In addition to virtual map technology, criminals are benefitting and profiting from the rise of social media.
As the general population becomes ever more interconnected through the use of social media, the amount of information openly available to the general public continues to swell. For a clever, technology savvy criminal, such information creates opportunity. Several methods and techniques commonly used by criminals include:
- Creating Fake Charities
- Victim Profiling
Such practices can result in cases of identity theft, fraud, burglary, drug smuggling/dealing as well as kidnapping among others. It's important to be mindful of the personal and private information you share with the world; the dark side of social media is alive and well. Posting a simple update on Facebook such as "heading out of town this weekend" could make its way to someone looking to invade a home. At present, numerous police department are working with both their support staff and officers to limit overall information sharing via social media to protect the interests of officers and their families.
On the flip side, the use of applicant programming interfaces (APIs) can be used for the purpose of protecting the general public as well. Both local law enforcement and the FBI have used Google Maps StreetView to nab criminals in addition to raising awareness of criminal activity on both a local and national scale. Websites like criminalsearches.com give anyone with internet access the ability to search/locate local criminals and convicts in their neighborhoods via Google Maps StreetView.
For those parents looking to keep a close eye on their kids, mobile GPS trackers have grown in popularity in recent months. Mobile GPS Applications are offered for both Android and iPhone and are relatively inexpensive. GPS TRacking Pro utilizes Google maps to display a real-time location of the end-user. Whether you want to keep an eye on someone in particular or are just interested in seeing where your friends are at, I recommend looking into such mobile apps.
In the end, technological innovation will have both positive and negative consequences for generations to come. It’s no secret we live in a world where criminal activity is abundant and will continue to be. Fortunately, there are consequences for those who break the law and it’s in everyone’s (justifiably) best interest the criminals are ultimately caught and prosecuted for their actions.
Daniel Black consults for Protect America - A leader and innovator in the home security industry.