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The Tools of Personal Surveillance

September 27, 2010

There’s always something interesting on BoingBoing, and it was via that site that I came across this story in Salon magazine about one woman’s decision to track down the man who had robbed her. Now, most of the commentary about this has focussed on her commitment and determination and the usual stuff about how the police let criminals prospers etc. However, what interested me was the techniques and technologies that she was able to employ to find this guy: basically not only did she use a whole lot of techniques and technologies that not so long ago would have been the preserve of the intelligence services, police or private investigators, but also the thief in question was also an inveterate social networker and was about as careless with his online personae as most of us are. Of course, what it also shows is that it takes an awful lot of effort to do this, and this kind of obsessive hunt takes over lives, so it would not be a practical option: individual surveillance is not a substitute for the power of the state. It’s a fascinating read…

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