"Commercial Surveillance" Data Catches Another Criminal

OK, the target was a murderer, but this just goes to illustrate how it’s all about the collation of publicly available (or privately pilfered) data.

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Yeah, agreed. I think other interesting things to consider are:

  • the street view approach only worked because a lot of good police work had already been done.
  • Italy/Europe has a relatively competent and professional police force that is constrained by actual enforced rules on procedure and use of force imposed by democratically-elected governments.
  • take away either of the previous two factors and you’ve created a system to randomly arrest/harass {insert at-risk ethnic/political group here}

The article isn’t precise about the role that the Google Street View imagery played.

I will venture the following speculation: When Google Street View captures images of people and other sensitive information (e.g. car licence plates), it blurs the specific parts of the image out for the copy that is displayed in Google Street View. However governments can strongarm Google to get the original, unblurred image.

If that is correct then it shows just how unacceptable Google’s surveillance is.

However it also shows what a hopeless conflict of interest government has. On the one hand, they should be legislating to ban Google outright from conducting such blanket surveillance (whether hoovering up WiFi traffic or capturing images). On the other hand, government is a beneficiary of that surveillance.

Speculating further, I wonder whether there is a government-only version of Google Street View where the images are not blurred at all.


Very good points.

As for the mafioso, I can imagine that the Italian investigators had some prior info - from an informant, for example - that the subject was running a restaurant and/or produce store in that locale, was calling himself Manuel/Manu, and maybe they just lucked out with the image. Then they followed that trail to the Facebook account.

Or maybe they had several pieces of the puzzle already. Collation!

This is also why numerous breaches and thefts of personal data by alleged nation states bother me so much.

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Well, if we want to get into even wilder speculation … government strongarmed Google into handing over every image from Spain, unblurred, and the government had a computer examine the imageset looking for a person who would match the last known image of the suspect as updated for the passage of time i.e. a man older than when they last saw him. Or maybe Google’s own computers conducted that search.

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