Tagged: openness

Gangster social

From Wired, we learn about how gang members in Chicago are using social networks as part of their methods of intimidation, organisation and self-aggrandisement, with seemingly little regard for the public nature of these spaces.

We naturally associate criminal activity with secrecy, with conspiracies hatched in alleyways or back rooms. Today, though, foolish as it may be in practice, street gangs have adopted a level of transparency that might impress even the most fervent Silicon Valley futurist. Every day on Facebook and Twitter, on Instagram and YouTube, you can find unabashed teens flashing hand signs, brandishing guns, splaying out drugs and wads of cash. If we live in an era of openness, no segment of the population is more surprisingly open than 21st-century gang members, as they simultaneously document and roil the streets of America’s toughest neighborhoods.

 

There’s a term sometimes used for a gangbanger who stirs up trouble online: Facebook driller. He rolls out of bed in the morning, rubs his eyes, picks up his phone. Then he gets on Facebook and starts insulting some person he barely knows, someone in a rival crew. It’s so much easier to do online than face-to-face. Soon someone else takes a screenshot of the post and starts passing it around. It’s one thing to get cursed out in front of four or five guys, but online the whole neighborhood can see it—the whole city, even. So the target has to retaliate just to save face. And at that point, the quarrel might be with not just the Facebook driller a few blocks away but also haters 10 miles north or west who responded to the post. What started as a provocation online winds up with someone getting drilled in real life.

So these gang members really don’t give a second thought to public / private, to secrecy as part of what they do. In a horrible way they are arguably being “radically transparent”. interesting to thing about Clay Shirky’s examples of online social networks defeating organised crime in Here Comes Everybody. So, do we here have organised crime adopting open, loosely coupled networks to pursue their agenda?

Well they are definitely networked, but possibly not that organised in the way we would usually think about criminal organisations…

Harold Pollack, codirector of the University of Chicago Crime Lab, says that in every talk he gives about gangs, someone inevitably asks him about The Wire—wanting to know who is, say, the Stringer Bell of Chicago. But The Wire, based in part on David Simon’s Baltimore crime reporting in the 1980s and ’90s, is now very dated in its depiction of gangs as organized crime syndicates. For one thing, Stringer Bell would never let his underlings advertise their criminal activities, as a Central Florida crew did this spring when it posted on its public Facebook page that two of its members had violated their parole and been arrested for posing with guns on their personal Facebook pages.

Something here connects to a link that Will McInnes tweeted – about “open source warfare“, a post by John Robb, author of Brave New War. These gang factions are becoming less centralised, more open, less geographically defined (as the main gang war in the Wired article escalated, across the mid-West, as social followers of the tweeting, rapping gangsters enacted small proxy battles in their own neighbourhoods).

Conflict and crime, like every other area of human life is being disrupted, re-imagined, is re-emerging in new forms.

Mining the where: CIA-funded start-up says 80% of online content contains location information

201011251323.jpg

Last week at Local Social Summit I talked about some of the issues around location and privacy. Especially problematic is people’s inadvertent tagging of their photos with location information – something potentially of interest to crooks, stalkers and others you might not want to know everything about you.

Open-source spying is a term which has been around for a while, reflecting the fact that when it comes to gathering information, the web is often as good a place as going into the field. In-Q-Tel’s investments reflect a justified fascination with the social web by intelligence agencies.

Well it turns out the CIA is also interested in this kind of information. In a post about the CIA’s Silicon Valley VC firm, In-Q-Tel, the Not So Private Parts blog on Forbes found the firm…

…likes companies coming up with better ways to mine social networking sites and geospatial location data. One of its investments, Geosemble, a private spin-off from USC, estimates that “80% of online content has location information.”

80%? Wow.

“Our mission is to shine a torchlight on geographic unknowns and help organizations neutralize threats and capitalize on opportunities in their areas of geographic interest,” says its website. Another of IQT’s geospatial investments, FortiusOne, promises instant maps based on Tweets and photo uploads, for mapping election-day threats in Afghanistan, for example.

The idealist in me is attracted to the data mining stories of humanitarian efforts of platforms like Ushahidi, but we should remember that governments and their agencies are interested in our geo-location information as well.

Bonus link : : Really interesting presentation from FortiusOne on analysing geo-data for business.

Defending the web for today and the future

201011211103.jpg

For anyone interested in the web, Tim Berners-Lee’s article in The Scientific American about its future is of course required reading.

Let’s begin by quoting the closing sentences of the piece:

The goal of the Web is to serve humanity. We build it now so that those who come to it later will be able to create things that we cannot ourselves imagine.

It is useful for us to reflect on what the web is and what it will become and see it, in this light, as presenting not just opportunities and threats, but responsibilities as well. As participants, we are all stewards of the web, not just users.

Despite what Maclom Gladwell may say, I agree with the web’s creator when he says:

The Web is now more critical to free speech than any other medium. It brings principles established in the U.S. Constitution, the British Magna Carta and other important documents into the network age: freedom from being snooped on, filtered, censored and disconnected

Berners-Lee’s article examines many of the threats to the continued evolution of the web based on its original approach:

Several principles are key to assuring that the Web becomes ever more valuable. The primary design principle underlying the Web’s usefulness and growth is universality. When you make a link, you can link to anything.

He focuses on a range of issues that could undermine the evolution of the web, including net neutrality, even on mobiles (which is where net neutrality advocate Google draws the line) and the walled garden instincts of social network giant Facebook. In fact, he says the web is endangered by any search engine or social web service that commands a near monopoly.

It is good to see that he broadens what access to the web means to include not shutting out large numbers of citizens, e.g. those with disabilities.

On this topic, take a look at a fantastic idea called Fix the Web, which crowdsources the process of checking the accessibility of websites ad sending helpful emails to administrators telling them what they need to fix. It’s supported by Citizens Online, a charity which campaigns for internet access as a human right, and for which I’m proud to serve as a Trustee.

Always the mantra for the web’s continued success has to be view it as a common resource, one which no one should own and everyone should defend.