Police launch Facebook app

April 22, 2008 // 6:57 a.m.

Tags: #application #epic #facebook #facebook-application #gmp #greater-manchester-police #manchester #police #privacy

If you've got some ne'er-do-wells scribbling on your wall in Facebook, the Greater Manchester Police would like to know about it. The force has officially launched a Facebook application allowing you to snitch on your pals without ever leaving the comfort of the social networking site.

Dubbed GMP Updates, the main purpose of the application is to provide real-time feeds of police-related news on your Facebook page – missing persons, appeals for witnesses, and general crime news. Like any good Web 2.0 application, the GMP's Facebook app allows you to send interesting stories to your friends with the click of a mouse and each item can have comments added by viewers.

Rob Taylor, the Assistant Chief Constable at the Greater Manchester Police, declared himself proud at the GMP being “the first force in the country to use this new technology” and believes that it “demonstrates our commitment to exploring all avenues available to us to help fight and detect crime.

The really interesting aspect of the application doesn't get mentioned in the official press release, however: according to PC World – no, not the high-street retailer – the app includes a button marked “Submit Intelligence” that allows users to send information they might have on a particular appeal to the GMP anonymously. While that might seems like a pretty neat idea in theory, it does raise certain privacy and security implications.

Guilherme Roschke, a fellow of the Electronic Privacy Information Centre, is suitably alarmed at the implications for those choosing to use the application to report 'anonymously'. Despite Facebook storing a large chunk of your life digitally – Roschke specifically highlights political views, relationship interests, copies of photographs stored in Facebook albums, all the usernames you've added as friends, and your social timeline – not many people appreciate that applications, including the GMP Updates app, have access to all this data even if you've marked it as private.

So, you might want to delete any incriminating photos on both your own and your friends' accounts before installing the new app. You could just, y'know, not bother, of course.

What's your opinion on the initiative – should the GMP concentrate on putting bobbies in the streets and stop wasting our money on Web 2.0 frippery, or does the applet have potential? Share your thoughts over in the forums.
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