Why do they call them smartphones when people seem to continue to do stupid things with them? I find myself asking this question almost daily as I read the morning news. The combination of video and picture capability, together with with postings to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other social media, has encouraged the terminally stupid among the criminal population to document their foibles.
Take for example the Steubenville footballers and friends, recently in the news. Two lunkhead jocks, overcharged on booze and their own hormones, were recently convicted of sexual abuse of a drunken 16 year-old. Not satisfied with merely abusing this youngster, the pair chose to publish their actions through social media; I suppose to keep their “friends” updated. Instead they, and their friends, created a pictorial record of their crimes that led to their convictions. Stupid, right? Yes, but not as stupid as a bevy of their supporters who, despite widespread publicity of the role social media played in the case, took to that very social media to threaten the young victim with retribution. So instead of showing their solidarity and support for the first two lunkheads, they have become targets themselves of a further criminal investigation.
Then there are the gangbangers who pose with their personal arsenals, flashing gang signs. I’m not quite sure what those signs mean but my best guess is they are probably reporting their IQ’s with the number of fingers they are flashing.
The there is the New Jersey dad who posted a photo of his 11 year-old on Facebook, holding what appears to be an AR-15 assault rifle. The posting triggered a complaint to New Jersey’s Department of Youth and Family Services. In turn DYFS arrived at his home. This dad’s lawyer now claims it was merely a .22 caliber rifle that looks like an AR-15. In the law school I went to we would call that a distinction without a difference. Given the emotionally charged issue of gun control in the wake of Sandy Hook this certainly qualifies as stupid!
Really, there should be an App designed that measures the common sense of smartphone users. Criminals posting to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Foursquare, anxious to impress their friends and followers, are also not smart enough to know about geotagging. Similar to your car’s GPS, this allows certain software programs (ones not only law enforcement, but you also, can purchase) that will identify the place where the photo was shot as well as a great deal more information about the phone’s owner.
In February last year an NBC affiliate in Kansas City, Missouri, KSHB, ran a piece on geotagging. A staffer agreed to upload pictures of her four year old. A fellow Action News staffer then combed the various social sites, using a software program readily available. Frighteningly, clicking on the child’s picture not only provided her location but also allowed the fake “stalker” to learn where her daycare center was and even which part of the local park she played in.
For law enforcement, out to find the terminally stupid criminals who post their misdeeds, this is a bonanza. For the rest of us who innocently post cute photos of kids and grandkids this is pretty scary.
The Fourth Amendment protects us from unwarranted government intrusion into our homes and other areas where we have an expectation of privacy. For the photo-centric criminal addicted to social media the Fourth Amendment is unavailing. If you are dumb enough to put it out there don’t cry constitutional violation when it comes back to bite you in court.