Dave, this is a weird question, but I was talking to my Mom about LinkedIn, Orkut and Ryze when she got a funny look on her face and said “I bet criminals use these sites to buy and sell illegal stuff”? I laughed at the time, but now I’m wondering…
I would never have thought about this and I still have a niggling suspicion that your Mom might be watching too much of the The Sopranos or something, but it turns out she’s spot on!
This entire story passed me by a few months ago, but according to the BBC World Service drug dealers were busted for using Orkut to sell drugs.
It’s an amazing story, actually. Apparently, over half the seven million Orkut members are Brazilian, which by itself is curious. I mean, the population of Brazil is 186 million, and over 3 million of them are Orkut members. A subset of those 3 million decided that Okrut was a logical place to deal drugs like marihuana and ecstasy, unfortunately it is traceable.
At the time, Google’s spokesdroid said “We are aware of the situation and are currently looking into it. When we are made aware of situations that are against our terms of service we take appropriate action.” A definite “do no evil” challenge.
Criminals using an online networking site really makes me think of the law of unintended consequences. Who would have thought when Google employee Orkut Buyukkokten put together the Orkut social networking site that they’d have to deal with Interpol, the Brazilian police force, and the Drug Enforcement Agency, all because of some savvy, tech drug dealers?
Other than that one story, however, I can’t find much indication that networking sites, particularly more professionally oriented sites like LinkedIn, have been implicated in any wrongdoings. Well, Ryze has at least one criminal with his own Ryze profile online, as you can read about in this discussion: The PlexPay Network Scam. You can dig around too, if you’re curious: Google myspace criminal arrest, Friendster criminal arrest, and so on…
There are also important implications regarding our own privacy and how much we should trust people we don’t know who seek to connect and communicate with us on these social networks. It’s a few years old, but Joi Ito has a thought-provoking article on his weblog about this topic too: Maher Arer deported by US Government.
As the folk at LinkedIn have been saying for a while, your best strategy is always to link only to people you know. Probably, linking to your Mom would be safe, too. 🙂
There is a new social networking site as you say “for criminals” It is http://www.myconspace.org. Very new and voluntary, it is privately operated in the public sector. Similar in design to MySpace and others, it allows contact with security issues in place. Maybe the govenment will adapt similar issues to their own site
YOU KNOW WHAT, IN BRAZIL PEOPLE USE ORKUT TO MAKE BETS AND ALSO TO MEET GANGS FOR FIGHTS AFTER AND BEFORE SOCCER MATCHES, THAT HAS RESULTED IN MANY AND MANY KILLS ALREADY, SOME GOVERNORS WERE TRYING TO BAN ORKUT SERVER IN BRAZIL…
Thanks for your note, Nando, but I’ve re-read what I wrote and can’t see where you’d believe that I’m even suggesting that a meaningful percentage of Brazilians are other than law-abiding citizens? Sorry if you’re offended, that certainly wasn’t my intent.
I’m Brazilian and I don’t use Orkut anymore. I think not just Brazilians are selling drugs on Orkut, because I left the service because a Brazilian member, but I saw americans making it’s thinks there… Oh yeah, let me tell you guys one thing: Just because Brazilians are the major users of the service, this doesn’t mean that we just make bad things. If you americans were the major users, I bet We would see lots of problems in the service, because I see many people selling drugs in USA as well in Brazil…
So don’t talk to the user that there’s just criminals in Orkut because there are brazilians, and better, don’t tell him that brazilians are this kind of people you think we are, because you are a rich nation and you shouldn’t have any problems, instead of that, you have lots of problems. We fight for what we want, and we don’t put our falts in other like you do. Sorry, but I really got angry when I read this.
That would be true, Mike, except you can’t view my phone and see my list of favorite callers, you can’t look at my car and see what roads I like to drive, yet one of the key value propositions of online networking, I’d argue the key value, is that you CAN see my network of friends and/or colleagues. So if I call a new “friend” who turns out to have a shady history, you won’t know about it, but if I “link to them” you will, and so will everyone else who views my profile. Big difference in my view.
I bet criminals use roads to go places while they’re committing crimes. I bet criminals use the telelphone to talk to each other and plan their nefarious deeds. I bet criminals use schools to have their children educated. Etc., etc.