Footprinting Criminals

Yup.  You read that right.  Not fingerprint, footprint.

Defining Your Digital Footprint

Your digital footprint, little crumbs left on the internet by your activities, is quickly become a useful tool for security agencies to track (or trap) you.  Law enforcement officials comb through oodles of data generated from your browsing history, cell phone location history, social media feeds, purchasing habits and in some cases, even your email to build a unique digital profile of you.

Officials assess the volume, variety, veracity and velocity of the information gathered in building a detailed profile.

Using Your Digital Footprint

With that profile, officials (and marketers) can assess your proclivity to participate in criminal activities, build a case to prosecute you after the fact, and in some cases stop you from being a menace to society.

Not all the data generated and analysed is within your control.  You interact with countless external databases which also collect and collate information on your patterns.  Consider CCTV, police body cameras, licence plate readers, facial recognition and drone cameras.  The Jamaican police have all these sources at their disposal.  Even the once old school finger print has gone digital thanks to the Automated Finger Information System (AFIS).

Governments use legislation (like the Patriot Act in the US), government agencies use advanced software and local police use warrants to legitimately access to what once was your private data.  Of course, in some cases coercion and deception are included in the tool kit.

Limiting Your Digital Footprint

And in many cases, “they” are getting exactly what they want.  The sheer volume of data is a limiting factor; even with the most sophisticated algorithms, parsing through terabytes of data takes time and produces false results costing more time.  End to end encryption for email and messaging, the dark web and increasing savvy internet users are also collectively slowing the data capture process; not to mention the (public) refusal of some tech companies to play nice and build back doors.

The adage, if you have nothing to hide means you have nothing to worry about, is simply not true.  Data is data.  It can be interpreted or manipulated in various ways.  Protecting your data from rouge government agencies and corrupt law enforcement is just as important as protecting your data from criminals and the process is the same.

That said, that doesn’t mean that I advocate the hindrance of lawful searches to give aide to security professionals.  It’s a complicated world.  Someone else is watching your digital footprint right now, and you should be watching it too.

Tech4Life airs on @RJR94FM every Wednesday morning at 8:15 am.

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