Monday, December 10, 2012

For police agencies - did Google educate you on its new Ingress game? Why not?

Those who are used to asking "what could go wrong" were justifiably alarmed when Google released its "Community Guidelines" for Ingress. Here's an excerpt:

Don’t trespass while playing Ingress (and don’t try to lawyer that guideline, just respect it). Do not access any property or location while playing the game if you’re not sure you have the right to be there.

Yes, fans of a game can be fanatic, and it's conceivable that someone could venture onto a military base or a prison just to hack that portal. Or, more likely, someone may forget that a place that is public during the day, such as a beach or a park, may be closed after the sun sets - so if you're there at 10:00 pm, you may be trespassing.

This has been enough to turn some people off of Ingress altogether - and also off of geocaching, hiking, and photography.

Photography? Yes:

Over the objections of some civil liberties groups, the Los Angeles Police Commission approved controversial new guidelines Tuesday for when LAPD officers can document suspicious behavior they believe could be linked to terrorism.

The five-member civilian oversight panel unanimously approved a special order that gives officers the authority to write reports on people whose actions might not break any laws, such as taking a photograph of a power plant.

When you consider that many of the initial Ingress portals in the United States are fire stations and post offices, the sight of someone standing outside a government facility, furiously doing things with his or her smartphone, is potentially enough to launch an investigation. Maybe not enough to make an arrest, but certainly enough to detain you for several hours.

In the best case, the police officer stops you, you show the officer your Android phone, and the officer just says, "Well, I'm Enlightened, but even though you're Resistance, I'm going to let you go."

In the worst case, the police officer stops you, you show the officer your Android phone, and the officer heroically springs into action:

In an interdepartmental statement dispatched on August 16, Beck writes, “Taking pictures or videos of facilities/buildings, infrastructures or protected sites in a manner that would arouse suspicion in a reasonable person” is enough of a red flag to have authorities file a suspicious activity report, or SAR. According to departmental policies, those SAR files are then sent into a Consolidated Crime and Analysis Database (CCAD), where they are occasionally added to a Crime Analysis Mapping System (CAMS) for further investigation. From there, intelligence can be stored in a Information Sharing Environment (ISE) Suspicious Activity Reporting (SAR) Shared Space and accessed at fusion centers across the country, such as the LA area’s Joint Regional Intelligence Center, where other intel is interpreted, dissected and divulged by agencies like the FBI and the US Department of Homeland Security.

Of course, much of this could be avoided if the police officers were familiar with the Google game Ingress. As part of its marketing plan, Google would certainly want to make sure that police agencies were aware of the game.

I'm sure that Google took care of that little matter.

Didn't they?

Why not?

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