The dangers of exposing too much data through Google are well-known, but the dangers of exposing yourself on YouTube may be much greater.
Police in Canada are expected to announce today the arrest of a man who is suspected of stabbing another man at a hip-hop club in Toronto. To find the suspect, the police used a novel approach--they uploaded surveillance footage of the suspects to YouTube.
Or maybe the approach wasn't so novel: Police in Boston are on the same track. They recently uploaded a video to YouTube, hoping for help in identifying suspects in a stolen credit card case.
Other examples abound, and they don't involve police uploading videos: The two Winnipeg teens who posted their first-person account of illegal street racing; the Australian cop looking for child pornographers; and the prankster in Wales who was caught by police after posting his stunt on YouTube.
Of course, YouTube can also be used to watch the police. The LAPD made the news again this year after videos showing alleged incidences of police brutality appeared on the site.
If I were an entrepreneur or an imaginative police official, I'd be starting a site called PoliceTube right now.
But open-source investigative work, done via YouTube, is disturbing. We are all part of the surveillance society now, whether willingly or no. Whereas we once tacitly agreed to be videotaped on whatever premises we frequented, those videos are no longer confined to hard drives and tape cases; in a few seconds, they can can be broadcast across the world. In the case of catching a killer, this is a good thing. In the case of protecting our privacy, the opposite applies.
It makes me pine for the heyday of the NYC Surveillance Camera Players.