After rioters flooded the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6, there was an immediate call for those who overran officers on the scene and swarmed the House and Senate floors, as well as congressional members’ personal offices, to be identified, arrested and prosecuted. The coordinated law enforcement response to this incident is massive.
As researchers who study criminal justice, we see that law enforcement agencies are accessing large amounts of information via technological sources to investigate the attack on the U.S. Capitol building. High-definition security cameras, facial recognition technology, location services acquired from cellphones and third-party apps, and accessing archival evidence on social media are all used to identify perpetrators of crimes and tie them to specific places and times.
While watchdog groups have raised legitimate concerns about the use of government and private-sector surveillance technology to identify people who might commit violent acts at some future point, there is much less concern raised about the use of technology to identify, arrest and prosecute individuals once these crimes have occurred.
Facial Recognition Technology
In the days since the breaching of the Capitol, information has flowed continuously to law enforcement with names and/or images of suspected participants in the unrest. Facial recognition technology can be used to compare images obtained by law enforcement – particularly those images taken from the network of security cameras within and outside the Capitol complex – to positively identify persons of interest.
Facial recognition systems work by matching a face in a video or photo with a face in a database that is associated with a person’s name and other identifying information. Beyond using public records, law enforcement agencies have been turning to private companies to access large databases of identified faces. A growing body of evidence shows the large amount of data some companies have been collecting from social media and other publicly available sources, as well as from CCTV systems in public spaces around the globe. Law enforcement agencies can simply purchase the services of these companies.
The technology exists to identify individuals participating in violent encounters in public spaces in real time using the soon-to-be-completed national ID database. This could result in some extremist groups going off the grid to avoid identification.
Sourcing Information From Social Media
Investigators are being aided by many of the participants in the events of Jan. 6 themselves who posted accounts of their activities on social networks. In addition to the participants who breached the barricades of the Capitol, many bystanders documented the happenings. Social media companies are assisting law enforcement in accessing content that may be useful to locate and prosecute specific individuals.
Some of the earliest subjects who were arrested after the events of Jan. 6 were previously known to law enforcement agencies around the nation, their involvement confirmed by social media postings. Reports have emerged that individuals and groups already under surveillance by law enforcement agencies nationwide via their activity on social media, including suspected white supremacists on the FBI’s terrorist watchlist, were contacted by officers before the individuals traveled to Washington to attend the “Stop the Steal” rally.
Information from social media is also assisting authorities in determining the extent of planning among individuals and groups that were involved.
There is some disagreement within the law enforcement community about the pros and cons of restricting the ability of extremists to communicate on platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and Parler. The benefit of restricting extremists’ access is hindering communication in the hopes of preventing similar attacks. There is emerging evidence that extremist groups are moving their social media conversations to password-protected sites and to the darknet, where an individual’s anonymity is protected. This migration might hinder extremist groups in recruiting and propaganda efforts, but it’s not clear if it has an effect on the groups’ organizing.
The downside of driving extremists to less-visible online platforms is that it makes it difficult for law enforcement to gather information needed to bring cases against those who participate in criminal incidents. Their virtual footprints become harder to follow.
Identifying a person – particularly someone not previously known to law enforcement – is just one piece of evidence needed to issue an arrest warrant. Empirical information that puts the suspect at the location of a crime when that crime occurred often provides the corroboration courts need to issue a warrant.
The vast majority of participants in the Capitol unrest carried mobile devices with them and had them powered on, which makes it possible for law enforcement agencies to determine the movements of the cellphone’s owner. Even if users have location services, cellular data and Wi-Fi disabled, law enforcement has access to technology that can determine the location of a device at a specified time.
But location data is useful only when coupled with other evidence of a subject’s involvement in a criminal incident, such as photos and video. For instance, it is doubtful whether simply being in the vicinity of the Capitol during the unrest is sufficient. Location data may not be precise enough to discern whether a device was on someone’s person behind previously established barricades outside the Capitol building or if that device was inside House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s private office, particularly with thousands of mobile devices clustered in one small geographic space inside structures that can obscure signals.
Tips From the Public
One aspect of criminal investigations that has not changed with the rise of technological surveillance is the value of information provided by eyewitnesses and associates of individuals suspected of perpetrating crimes. In the days since the storming of the Capitol, many tips have come into law enforcement from friends, relatives, ex-spouses, neighbors, co-workers and others who indicated they either saw images of someone they knew participating in the unrest on television or on social media, heard them boast of their exploits or heard from a third-party that they had participated.
The FBI, especially, took advantage of the constant media attention on the unrest at the Capitol to ask the public for tips and information, and had established a hotline to gather this information within hours of the incident. It certainly helps criminal investigations when perpetrators are willing to be recorded and photographed, and when they provide their names, ages and hometowns to reporters.
Technology expands the reach of law enforcement investigations, and, combined with tips from the public, makes it more difficult for participants in mob actions to become lost in the crowd. However, these technologies raise the question of whether they can and should be used in the future to prevent these types of large-scale violent incidents from occurring in the first place.
Republished from TheConversation.com under Creative Commons
Jeff Bezos Thanks Amazon Workers And Customers For Paying For His Flight To Space
The billionaire space race chalked up one more ignoble milestone on July 20 when the world’s richest man, Jeff Bezos, boarded a reusable rocket his company Blue Origin built and funded, flew to the edge of space for a moment of weightlessness, and came back down to earth.
You can watch the flight and learn more about the journey here.
The Amazon founder has faced withering criticism for accumulating his massive fortune on the backs of an exploited workforce that is subject to harsh working conditions and low pay in warehouses or Fulfillment Centers where staffers must urinate in water bottles in order to meet their quotas.
In his press conference following the launch, Bezos thanked that same workforce for helping him to shoot himself into space in a move that many critics have described as a simple “joyride.”
“I want to thank every Amazon employee and every Amazon customer because you guys paid for this,” he told the crowd, which responded with laughter. “Seriously, for every Amazon customer out there and every employee thank you from the bottom of my heart very much. It’s very appreciated.”
Critics on Twitter responded with derision, noting that Bezos was able to enjoy the trip at the expense of his hard-working employees.
“Thing is, employers are supposed to pay their employees, not the other way around, but that’s basically how Amazon works,” one user tweeted.
While another tweeter asked: “Maybe they’re searching space for signs of a livable wage or a way to pay their fair share of taxes?”
On Tuesday, Bezos blasted off in the sub-orbital New Shepard rocket from Texas. The date for the launch was chosen to coincide with the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.
Members of the crew, which included his brother mark and 82-year-old female astronaut Wally Funk, brought a number of historic items on the flight, including a piece of canvas from the conceptual plane originally flown by the Wright brothers, the goggles Amelia Earhart used to fly across the Atlantic, and a brass medal made from the first hot air balloon which flew in 1783.
Keanu Reeves Praised As Video of Him Offering Seat to Lady in Subway Resurfaces
Keanu Reeves is an actor who has long been loved by audiences —and not necessarily due to his acting skills, but due to how nice the John Wick star is.
And now, Reeves is once again earning praise as a “true gentleman” after resurfaced video footage shows Reeves giving up his seat on the subway.
The clip was shared by Instagram film fan account Cinemonkeys where it has since earned nearly 45,000 likes.
The video footage dates back to 2011, when it was shared on YouTube by a user of the video-sharing platform.
At the time, Reeves was already a superstar riding on the fame he earned from the Matrix, Speed, and a number of other blockbuster hits.
When Reeves notices a woman carrying a heavy bag, he quickly points to his seat and asks if she would like to sit. The woman accepts and Reeves gets up without hesitating to let her take his seat.
Reeves, ever the model citizen, then stands and holds onto a subway pole while carrying his bag.
The video has since been watched over 27 million times and was even cited in a 2019 Time magazine profile of the actor describing Reeves as the “soul mate” of the internet.
The resurfacing of the clip on Instagram once again impressed users of the platform.
“This human being’s soul honestly shines so bright,” wrote one user.
“OMG I love him in every single way,” another person commented.
“His kindness knows no bounds,” commented someone else.
Keanu is set to reprise his role as Neo in the upcoming fourth Matrix film directed and written by Lana Wachowski, who co-directed the earlier trilogy with her sister Lilly. He will also return to the silver screen in John Wick: Chapter 4, which will be released in 2022.
Drunk Man Rescues Injured Baby Bird By Sending It To Animal Shelter… In An Uber
An injured baby bird received a new lease on life after a young man who was inebriated had the good sense to send the little creature to an animal shelter because he and his friends were too drunk to drive.
In the Summer of 2019, a small lesser goldfinch suddenly appeared by itself at the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Northern Utah. The center’s chairman, Buz Marthaler, was notified by a volunteer who sent him a photo.
“It was a picture of this bird, and it had come by Uber,” Marthaler told FOX13. “It was just crazy.”
As it turns out, the tiny bird – which was only two weeks old – indeed rolled up to the site by its lonesome, the sole passenger in an Uber vehicle called by concerned citizens who found the injured creature.
Among those good Samaritans was Tim Crowley, who had been “day drinking” on that Saturday before he and his buddies witnessed the little bird fall from the sky.
“Impromptu, sitting in some camp chairs, hanging out, having a few drinks when we had a visitor fall out of the sky,” he explained.
Crowley then snapped a photo of the bird and sent it to the WRCNU, which instructed him to immediately bring the bird in. However, the group obviously couldn’t drive since they had been guzzling booze all day.
So Crowley decided he’d hail a cab for the creature.
“At first it was a joke, like, ‘Hey, maybe we should just call Uber!’” he said. “Then we were like, ‘No, really. Why not? We’re paying them.’”
As it turns out, the bird – since named “Petey Uber” by staff at the rescue center – likely would have perished if not for Crowley’s quick thinking.
Marthaler remains impressed by Crowley’s move and shared the news on its Facebook page.
“While we feel we’ve seen it all and can’t be amazed by anything, there is always someone out there to prove us wrong,” the shelter’s post read. “Thank you to the rescuer who helped this little one get the care it needed in a timely manner and thank you for keeping yourself safe and others on the road safe as well.”