Citizens have enthusiastically taken up the invitation to tag photos of people breaching traffic rules. Police have been the primary targets of the initiative, resulting in Police being issued with fines. Chandigarh residents have been busy uploading photographs on the Chandigarh Police Facebook Account in addition to posting other information such as the time, date and place of offences to assist with Police prosecutions.
A freelance photographer claims to have a dozen photos of traffic cops taking bribes and driving official vehicles without wearing seat belts. Sidhartha Sharma intends to tag all of them along with the date and time of the alleged offences.
Citizens want to hold Police accountable for their traffic misdeeds. The initiative appears to be more far reaching, with residents being invited to use the Police Facebook account to identify any form of illegal activity occurring in their neighbourhoods.
Whilst the scheme seems to have gained popular appeal, if used improperly it is could have unforeseen and unintended consequences.
Protecting the anonymity of providers of information is an obvious concern. The Blue Kite movie serves as a reminder how, during the cultural revolution in China, citizens encouraged to report corruption were subsequently persecuted and targeted for having done so.
It could become a tool of official surveillance, exacerbate local tensions between citizens uploading photos of one another, or be used to further politically inspired motivations.
There have been widespread reports of corruption amongst law enforcement officers, Judges and bureaucrats in India who remain immune from sanctions for their involvement in various forms of extortion rackets and official corruption.
Where citizens have attempted to expose corruption of public officials little action has been taken and citizens have been greeted with reprisals. There is no information as to whether those who upload photos are able to safely do so retaining their anonymity or without their identity being traced.
Although the use of photos by informants seems like a good idea, it could also result in technology being used as a tool to exact revenge upon, victimise and/or frame innocent citizens attempting to expose Police misbehaviour more serious than the breaking of traffic rules.
New technology has been used to solve crimes and provide valuable intelligence both in preventing and resolving crimes through the use of sophisticated maps and the identification of crime hotspots.
At first blush the uploading of photos of people believed to be criminals engaged in the process of committing crimes may prove useful, but such photos may often prove to be of little probative value and highly prejudicial.
It could prove to be a step in the wrong direction, particularly in the absence of strong privacy and other safeguards, including stringent measures to carefully scrutinise the authenticity and value of such evidence through both the crime reporting and judicial process.
Such initiatives could also be privacy invasive unless there are tight controls put in place to deal with the storage, collection and retention of data, including chains of custody issues in the use of forensic evidence for criminal prosecutions.