Thursday, March 24, 2011

Police in Australia Criticize Facebook

According to a TNW story at , Australian police have expressed frustration at the mutual assistance treaty and Facebook's response.
Australian Federal Police’s high-tech collection and capability manager, Grant Edwards, expressed that the mutual legal assistance treaty with the US is outdated and not designed to allow for a rapid response to online crime. And that Facebook, the world’s biggest social network, hasn’t been helpful with the push.
A revised treaty, supported by the AFP, is necessary to speed up the actioning of the police’s right to obtain information about online crime using a warrant on Facebook, which is head-quartered in the United States. Currently, the AFP is still required to undergo a long, tedious legal process in order to use US law enforcement to force Facebook to respond.
The Australian government has made efforts to amend the assistance treaty in order to speed up the process of lawful data acquisitions. However, the changes would need to be ratified by the US to take effect. According to Edwards, Facebook hasn’t been as helpful as it could because the company is “brand-protecting.” Furthermore, he labeled the social networking site’s action to remove pedophile profiles that were needed as evidence by the AFP as "ignorance on Facebook’s behalf."
Facebook has an automated system to detect and disable problem accounts.  However, this system generally can't detect when a user should also be reported to law enforcement.  Once an account is shut down, Facebook will retain the information for up to 90 days, and then it's gone.  Automatically detecting child pornography is a hard problem.  The most promising approach has been comparing images to hashes of known child pornography files, but that only works if there's a match.

The situation may also be fraught in terms of politics and public relations.  The ground truth seems to be that there's a lot of child pornography floating around and nobody's really figured out a surefire way to detect it.  Even if it is detected and reported to law enforcement, some countries are more responsive than others.  But a social network can't go on record saying that child pornography is a hard and frustrating problem; it's more palatable to say that their sophisticated technology is keeping things under control.  As an obscure blogger, I can comment about seeing a lot of users from certain countries who seem to be interested in child pornography.  If a Facebook spokesman said that, people would probably accuse them of being bigots and they'd be forced to apologize.

1 comment:

  1. I live in Australia & its more than police that hate facebook=josh