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See No Evil Hear Evil: A Correction’s View on the YouTube® Video
By Art Bowker, Cybercrime Specialist
Published: 10/22/2012

You tube We had the recent middle-east riots, reportedly triggered by the anti-Islam YouTube® video. We can debate back and forth about whether the YouTube® video was the real cause of the violence or merely another catalyze to an already volatile situation. Some might argue it was the digital equivalent of yelling “fire” in a theater populated by the world. In the states, as a free society, we tend to be a bit more thick skinned, at least that is the hope.

As we witnessed events unfold it came to light that the purported video source was someone who was prohibited from Internet access due to their correctional status. The person has been arrested and is facing proceeding to determine if they have violated the terms of their supervision. Some might argue that the real purpose of the arrest and hearing is to stifle free speech. Others are more on point, that exercising free speech is not the issue. The real issue is offenders can’t lie and violate lawful restrictions while under supervision. We don’t know all the facts of this case. In the end it is in the judge’s hands.

Many of you know I find the whole idea of computer/Internet restrictions intriguing. In this case the person was not allowed online without permission. Media reports are a bit sketchy about computer management conditions imposed in this case, such as use of monitoring software/hardware or searches. Clearly the conditions directed that supervision efforts were to also encompass “cyberspace.” The question is what conditions or tools were available to help manage the cyber-risk?

While this offender faces a hearing, I read with fascination a story about how another probation officer located a missing juvenile offender using Facebook.® The thing that caught my eye was not that officer used the Internet as an investigative tool. After all, it makes perfect sense that a juvenile probation officer would turn to a media that so many of today’s youth use to communicate and socialize. What caught my attention was that this officer had to use her personal computer as she was prohibited from accessing the Internet from work. So on the one hand you have a world wide story involving a supervised offender’s Internet access, yet this officer’s department prohibits their employees from Internet access at work. Hell, maybe they thought they might view YouTube® videos and start tearing up the place. But seriously, in light of today’s environment, where actions done on the Internet can literally have worldwide consequences, why are probation and parole officers still being prohibited from accessing the Internet from work?

The fact is some officers are being asked to manage offender risk in cyberspace without tools and/or training. It is like being asked to write a movie review but instructed to wear dark sunglasses and ear muffs during its showing. I call it the “see no evil hear no evil” supervision philosophy. To make matters worse officers doing these off hours investigative activities could subject themselves to added risks, such as exposing one’s personal social networking connections to their caseload. Corrections has got to make up their mind. Either they are going to supervise offenders, including in cyberspace, and use all tools at their disposal or turn over this function to law enforcement or the mass media to report on the major supervision violations. One of the reasons I haven’t written earlier is I was busy attending the American Probation and Parole Association’s Summer Training Institute, which had over 1,000 in attendance. It was a very professionally done conference and I was particularly pleased that there were three well attended workshops dealing with managing offender computer risk. Hopefully, more agencies will get the idea that supervision does not end with the ”brick and mortar” world of yesterday. For now I know 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)

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