Social networking and covert police work: CSU study

1 JANUARY 2003

The implications of 'social networking' for covert operations by police will be investigated by researchers at CSU.

CSU's Associate Professor Nick O'BrienThe implications of ‘social networking’ for covert operations by police will be investigated by researchers at Charles Sturt University (CSU).
The study leader, Associate Professor Nick O’Brien, from CSU’s Australian Graduate School of Policing (AGSP), says the research will examine the implications for policing that arise from government policy responses to the rapid development of electronic social network platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, MySpace and Twitter.
“This study, which will be conducted in three phases and is due to be completed by the end of 2011, will examine how well current policies deal with the new technologies which share personal information, particularly as they relate to policing and national security matters,” Professor O’Brien said.
“Following a comprehensive review by an Australian Government taskforce, the government recently released its Web 2.0 policy initiative.
“The Commonwealth and most State and Territory governments have enacted legislation which allows the adoption of ‘assumed identities’ by officers from police and other agencies and covers people in witness protection schemes.
“As millions of dollars have been invested in these programs at various levels of government, it is vital that authorities continually evaluate the effectiveness of these initiatives and understand real or potential problems that unfold as the technology and its use evolves.
“The convergence with other technologies, such as facial recognition and geo-location, potentially exacerbates problems,” Professor O’Brien said.
The first two phases of the study involve the collection and analysis of material to measure the level of exposure of personal identification data shared on social networking sites such as Facebook. The first phase has commenced and will conclude later this year with an expert meeting in Canberra.
The third and final phase of the study will be conducted in partnership with the Australian National University’s (ANU) Centre for Policy Innovation. It will review current government policies and examine the need for innovative ways to deal with what is potentially a significant emerging problem.
Professor O’Brien’s co-researcher is Adjunct Professor Mick Keelty, who holds academic positions with CSU and ANU.

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