Finger Pointing with Facebook


This weekly post features recent news stories that highlight and update themes previously covered throughout NMA E-Newsletters and Alerts.

Editor’s Note:  A recent NMA Driving News item from France where police charged a number of people for reporting speed camera locations via Facebook reminded us of another creative, albeit onerous, application of the social media platform for law enforcement purposes.  From NMA e-Newsletter #93, October 2010:

 

As reported in this story, bystanders in Delhi, India are using Facebook to accuse motorists of traffic violations. Hundreds of such reports, usually accompanied with photos, are posted at the Delhi Traffic Police (DTP) page.

A typical DTP Facebook entry consists of a photo like the one shown below along with a cryptic comment like, “passenger without helmet.” This is usually followed by a police response of “Thanks, action will be taken xxxx-xxxxxx” where the x’s echo the cycle’s license plate from the photo.

india blog

The Delhi police, with limited traffic enforcement resources for the city of 12 million people, actively encourage the public to identify alleged traffic offenders via the department’s Facebook page. As with more traditional photo enforcement means — red-light and speed cameras — such methods do not positively identify the parties involved, nor do the images submitted necessarily provide an accurate depiction of what actually occurred.

It isn’t hard to imagine a scenario where a person with a grudge and rudimentary Photoshop skills can find a whole new avenue (literally!) for revenge.

The Delhi police respond by saying that the accused can contest the ticket in court if they feel they have been wrongly accused. For the sake of Delhi motorists, we hope that defendants in Indian court are at least afforded the same right that exists in the U.S. to require the person who took the incriminating photo to appear at trial to provide supporting testimony. If so, the number of anonymous Facebook accusers probably will dwindle over time.

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