Criminal Defense Lawyers and Crowdsourcing

Crowdsourcing is a new, technology-driven way to gather information.  It is necessary for criminal defense lawyers to be aware of the new ways authorities are catching criminals.  Crowdsourcing is used when information is needed and can be obtained easier by asking help from online communities.  The term stems from a term we are all more familiar with: outsourcing.  The difference with crowdsourcing is that the source of what is needed and obtained is an “unidentified public” rather than a “specific, named group.”  The term was actually coined more than seven years ago, but more recently, the FBI has begun to use the tactic to fight crime or find people of interest.  The “crowd,” in other words the users, will submit their solutions to an entity which has presented a problem.  Once the users’ solutions have been submitted, they become owned by the entity which first revealed the issue.  The main benefit of using this tactic is the ability to obtain a large amount of solutions or ideas at a next-to-nothing cost.  Plus, users are more apt to share information via the Web because they feel more comfortable and feel they are less likely to be judged or scrutinized.  Also, less time can be spent on communicating and more time on the projects at hand.

To put this tactic to work, the FBI uses it to help them catch child molesters, and have seen some success by doing so.   This week, the FBI posted and unidentified child molester, named “John Doe 27,” on their news blog.  The post included three blurry photos of the man and noted that he has engaged in inappropriate behavior with children on the internet.  Since the post was made a few days ago and the crowdsourcing tactic employed, there has been thousands of tweets about the case, which will potentially help the FBI figure out who Doe really is and lead to his capture.  This is not the first time the FBI has used this strategy successfully; they have made arrests in several cases over the past year.  Even a human rights group got involved to help catch child predators: one group placed an ad as bait for predators who were wanting to contact children via webcam.  That group captured over 1,000 child molesters within three months, simply by use of crowdsourcing.

Some even view crowdsourcing as a new-age police-tip line; however, this strategy is on a much larger scale than old fashioned phone calls to a tip line.  In some instances, the FBI stated that they have received over 300,000 tips per minute.  Once the tips are received, they must be reviewed so that innocent people do not come under fire and so any false alarms may be removed.   The FBI wants to make it clear that, by participating in crowdsourcing, users are supposed to provide the information and that is where it should stop.  From that point on, the user must trust that any further legal work or computer investigating will be handled by professionals in the agency.

As another example of using crowdsourcing to catch criminals, a small Pennsylvania town decided to use the popular website Pintrest.  A newspaper in the town created a board on Pintrest labeled “Wanted by Police” and they pinned photos of the criminals in that town who are wanted on that board so that internet users could see and share.  With the use of that strategy, the town saw a 57% increase in arrests made.  They even said that using crowdsourcing to catch the criminals was “very enjoyable” because the public was able to help them do their work.

Even state agencies are using the strategy to catch criminals.  The NYPD has launched a unit on social media in an attempt to track criminals on Facebook and Twitter.  Further north in Canada, crowdsourcing helped authorities catch those who were responsible for millions in damage after an NHL team lost the championship in 2011.  Canadian authorities used several image processing techniques that allowed them to see riot participants in high resolution.  Viewing the images in high resolution and being able to use facial-recognition technology are the reasons authorities were able to arrest the people responsible for the damage during the riot.

Technology is changing each day, so we know that authorities and criminals alike will try anything to achieve their ultimate goal.  To continue to have crowdsourcing as a viable strategy to counteract crime, “police and members of our society will need to organize themselves as an effective countermeasure.”  In the end, it seems that it all depends on which group can mobilize a larger crowd: the criminals or the authorities.

For those charged in any type of criminal case, it will be very important to speak with and hire a criminal defense lawyer who completely understands all the issues and complexities that go along with your charges.  The Myrtle Beach criminal defense lawyers at The Mace Firm spends a significant amount of time in criminal courts throughout all over the United States. There are criminal defense lawyers all over the country, but few are like those at our firm who practice criminal defense in Charleston, Miami, Myrtle Beach, Pawleys Island, Surfside Beach, Columbia and several other areas.

If you or someone you know is facing federal criminal or state criminal charges, you will need to speak with an experienced Myrtle Beach criminal attorney. A criminal defense lawyer at The Mace Firm is ready to speak with you about your case. Call one of our criminal defense attorneys to schedule your free consultation.