Online tools can help solve crimes, violate civil rights

Friday, April 27, 2018

If you have Google maps installed on your smartphone, you may or may not have noticed the ďYour timelineĒ feature.

If itís enabled, you can check back on any particular day to see where you were at any particular time, how long you were there and where you went next.

If you have an Amazon Echo or similar device, you may not realize itís got its ears perked up all the time, waiting for you to say its name.

Some people swear they start seeing advertising in their Facebook news feeds or search results after simply talking about certain products.

Even the most technologically astute among us would probably be shocked to know how much specific personal information about is us floating around in cyberspace.

So what, you may say, I have nothing to worry about, since I havenít been doing anything wrong.

True, perhaps, but you definitely do have reason to be concerned if you have been up to something immoral or illegal.

One-time policeman Joseph James DeAngelo, 72, found that out this week when he was arrested in connection with 12 unsolved murders between 1976 and 1986, dubbed the Golden State Killer case.

And, he wasnít even the person who put his most personal of information online.

Authorities say they connected DeAngelo to the 12 killings and more than 50 rapes by comparing crime-scene evidence with genetic information posted by his relative to an online ancestry website. Two of the largest, Ancestry.com and 23andMe say they werenít the business involved.

They suspect DeAngelo in a 13th murder, the killing of a community college instructor shot while stopping someone from kidnapping his 16-year-old daughter.

DNA isnít the only evidence used against the suspect, of course, but it was the final piece of the puzzle in bringing him to justice.

Few will object to law enforcement officials using every tool at their disposal to solve crime, but the same technology can be used by authorities or others to violate the rights of innocent citizens or employees.

Technology doesnít care whom it serves ó those online navigation records can help you keep track of your business miles or provide information for a suspicious spouse.

Little can be done to slow the advance of intrusive technology but itís up to responsible private citizens to keep their noses clean and stay involved in the political and legal process to ensure that technology is not used to rob us of our freedom.

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