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Three Intriguing Cyber-Offender Questions
By Art Bowker, Cybercrime Specialist
Published: 06/25/2012

Blog I get too few comments on The Three C’s to gauge whether I am accomplishing anything beyond irritating a few sex offenders who follow and accordingly voice their opinion. I wish more probation and parole officers would shoot a comment now and than, even if it is to point out I am off base. I guess they are a wee bit shy to tell me I don’t know what I am talking about. But anyone who runs a website or writes a blog knows there are tools out there that provide insights into what folks are thinking when they visit site and how they got there in the first place. What? You really thought when you visited a website no one knew about it? Depending upon the tools used a lot can be learned about who visits a website or for that matter a blog. But for those super paranoid, fear not. For the most part I am not privy to the glandular identification of users . The sole exception is when one posts to the blog their originating Internet Service Provider number and e-mail used is captured. (Click on the privacy policy of Corrections.com for further details)

This information collection is so a website or blog writer like myself can get an idea of what folks might be interested in or what drives them to the website. It provides us input into what interests our customers or readers. Let me give you an example. Someone does an Internet search on a term, “cigars,” and they are provided a websites listing of sites containing that word or term. From that listing they click on a particular website. Depending upon the tools used the website or blog will be provided information on the search terms used to get to a particular website. So if someone got to the Three C’s with the search term “cigars” I would likely know about it (no it hasn’t happen yet). I have had some interesting search terms for the Three C’s as well as my personal site, which I am going share and discuss, with a non-lawyer’s expertise (I am not offering legal advice to anyone). Here are the more intriguing ones thus far:

How Does Probation Monitor Computer Activity?

It depends on the agency. Some do computer searches or get law enforcement assistance to do them. Others install monitoring software. Still others rely solely on traditional techniques, such as surprise home visits. Some use polygraphs, specifically for sex offenders. Still others do online investigations and go check social networking sites to see what their offenders are doing online. I should note that in the United Kingdom law enforcement takes a central role in enforcing sexual offences prevention orders. Too many agencies I am sadden to say, ignore cyber-risk completely. The best practice is to employ multiple techniques.

Can Sex Offenders Use or Access Social Networking Sites (SNS)?

This one also comes under the heading of ”What is Facebook’s Policy on Sex Offenders?” The answer is it depends. Some states have statutes that make it illegal for sex offenders, regardless of being under correctional supervision, from accessing these sites. Currently, there is a lot of legal action going on attacking these criminal statutes. We will see how it turns out.

Additionally, it may be a specific condition of supervision that a sex offender not access a social networking site. This would mean if an offender got on a SNS without permission their supervision could be revoked.

Finally, independent of criminal statutes or supervision conditions, many SNS are banning sex offenders from using their sites. Facebook’s User Policy reflects: “You will not use Facebook if you are a convicted sex offender.” However, Facebook is no longer alone in making sex offenders unwelcome. Recently three dating sites, Match.com, eHarmony and Spark Networks signed a joint business principle statement agreeing to check subscribers against national sex offender registries. To my knowledge there have been no cases thus far decided that have ruled that a SNS can’t bar sex offenders from their site. In summary, check the jurisdiction’s legal statutes/court decisions; correction supervision conditions; and the user agreement of the particular SNS.

Can Probation Officers Hack Your Phone?

My, are we a bit paranoid or what? I am assuming “hack” means access a mobile phone, either remotely or through breaking in without a password. The answer is not without legal authorization, which translates into a court order, warrant and/or condition, subject to your jurisdictions legal requirements. A probation officer could search a mobile phone with your consent or with specific legal authorization, supported with “reasonable suspicion” that you have broken your conditions. They could also search under some circumstances, such as a specific condition authorizing “random searches.” They could may also search the phone pursuant to an arrest.

Now if you mean “hack” as remotely access the phone, without your knowledge, that would likely require a specific order or warrant. Additionally, I would have a tough time naming many probation officer that have the technical ability and/or equipment to accomplish this task. The exception would be to install monitoring software on the mobile phone. That is relatively easy, requiring only access to the phone. However, there has to be some legal authorization behind such activity. Without legal authorization it could be a violation of law. It simply is not a routine supervision activity.


There is one conclusion that might be drawn from these collective search terms. What you ask? Well, it seems I might be an information source for the offender population. It is kind of interesting that offenders are doing research on what officers are doing in cyber-risk management. I wonder what else they are doing Internet searches on, maybe how to defeat urine screenings or polygraph examinations? Maybe with more offenders asking questions, I might get a few more comments from probation and parole officers. Hopefully, they aren’t “what the heck are you telling my offenders?” Until then I left a cigar lit somewhere. Be safe out there!

Art Bowker is the author of The Cybercrime Handbook for Community Corrections: Managing Offender Risk in the 21st Century
He has over 26 years experience in both law enforcement and corrections at the state and federal level. In 2008, Art was the International President of the High Technology Crime Investigation Association (HTCIA). This professional non-profit organization is the largest of its kind devoted to the prevention, investigation, and prosecution of crimes involving advanced technologies (htcia.org). Art is also member of the American Probation and Parole Association (APPA) and is a member of their Technology Committee, He has a Master of Corrections degree from Kent State University. Follow Art on Twitter.com at: (http://twitter.com/Computerpo)

Other articles by Bowker:

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  5. Fred Davis on 07/28/2012:

    If one has to go to Facebook or any dating site to find a female friend that is feeble indeed. Facebook should have a right "as a business" alone to keep any group out. The government should not be hovering over the way they run their business at all. There were businesses when I grew up that had a sign "we reserve the right to refuse to serve anyone" This should mean "any" group. Facebook should be driven by profit alone. If former offenders outnumber non former offenders then democracy should rule for the one who loves socialism. It is only logical that business and government should be separate. Considering that the majority of future sex offenses (say 90 percent) will done by those "not" on the registry, the focus should be on those rascals and not the minority. And Facebook "as a business" should be able to say the same. This is America. When the government regime marries business and is in an incestuous relationship with such that is the seed of fascism.

  6. Fred Davis on 07/27/2012:

    BTW There is no constitutional right to privacy. Property issues are another issue. Where Common law has died there are "no property rights." (see: California) Rights come from the Creator and privileges come from government. We live in an upside down country where due process is almost history thanks to Kagan and other activist judges. . If property can be confiscated for one group that means other groups can be added incrementally until the landlord can be a tenant on his own land. Property rights are the basic foundation of our Constitutional Republic. One man of the same land cannot be both lord and tenant.

  7. Fred Davis on 07/27/2012:

    I think that spying on everyone is good for all. The problem with making too many regulations on this issue is that the same methods can be used by others. It can come home to roost in a painful way if fear is not tied to data and reason under law. Many of these regulations are ignoring the three aspects of real crime: # A Mens Rea: This is the KNOWLEDGE or ‘INTENT’ to do a crime. A person who is insane, or who inadvertently has an accident or suffers a mistake is not held as having committed a crime under our form of law. # An Actus Rea: This is the ACT of the crime. I punched you, or I picked up a rock to break your window. # The Corpus Delecti: This is the BODY of the crime, i.e., "The broken nose" or "the smashed windows" in the examples mentioned above

  8. computerpo on 06/26/2012:

    Thanks Rachel

  9. Angry Rachel on 06/20/2012:

    As far as comments go, I think maybe folks are a bit hesitant to leave comments. I enjoy the newsletter and I save it in a special folder for reference, if necessary. In regards to paranoia, or being a bit too paranoid, some folks really do have a reason to be paranoid, unfortunately, but not of the actual parole folks or any other correctional employee. The parole folks and correctional employees are only following orders. 'nuff said. Thanks!!

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