Using Social Networks to Solve Crimes: A Case Study

Using Social Networks to Solve Crimes: A Case Study

Alexiei Dingli (University of Malta, Malta)
DOI: 10.4018/jvcsn.2012040102
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Abstract

In this paper, the author investigates the use of the popular Social Networking Site (SNS) Facebook to solve crimes. In particular, the author uses car thefts as a case study. When a car owner discovers that his or her vehicle has been stolen, every means helps to recover the vehicle. Reporting the incident immediately to the police is obligatory, but alerting his or her network of friends on a social networking site about the misfortune could prove useful. In particular, the authors look into a real case study. This report answers several questions, such as: How useful can these sites be to help an owner recover the vehicle? How far can an appeal reach? What type of feedback do users send? The author analyzes how people create the appeal in Facebook and what information is shared.
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Facebook Statistics (“Facebook Factsheet”, 2012)

  • More than 800 million active users (users who have returned to the site in the last 30 days);

  • More than 50% of our active users log on to Facebook in any given day;

  • Average user has 130 friends;

  • More than 900 million objects that people interact with (pages, groups, events and community pages);

  • Average user is connected to 80 community pages, groups and events. On average, more than 250 million photos are uploaded per day.

According to Gross and Acquisti (2005) a reason which might shed light on the exponential growth of these particular social networking sites is “college-oriented social networking sites provide opportunities to combine online and face-to-face interactions within an ostensibly bounded domain” (Gross & Acquisti, 2005)

Our findings are in conflict with the common perception that information spreads widely and quickly across Facebook. Our observations about some of the existent groups may be related to the burnout process in the theory of information diffusion (Rogers, 2003). The slow pace of information propagation might reflect the challenges in recovering the stolen vehicle, even if information is exposed to immediate friends. This is because propagation of information in social networking sites is very abstract. In fact, propagation through SNRs has been studied and mapped onto different propagation models, mostly viral propagation in computer networks. Mapping of propagation can be studied against propagation in computer viruses an Internet surfing habits. These studies proved well when considering specific assumptions, but cannot be used as a general model for propagations through computer networks. The scope of our work is not to explain and go into different propagation techniques but to show how previous studies in different fields provide insight on the propagation paths of information in social networking sites. Instead of listing similarities in different concepts such as viral or propagation, we focused on the differences that appear between them in order not to generate confusion.

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