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The Public as Partner? Technology Can Make Us Auxiliaries as Well as Vigilantes

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Starting from police requests for help from citizens in the Boston Marathon bombing, this article examines some of the new opportunities and risks that computers and related communication tools bring to social control efforts. Issues of justice, liberty, privacy, community, and effectiveness are involved. Yet whatever is new here for national security, police and criminal justice grows out of and is encapsulated in settings that are in some ways old and shows enduring cultural continuities, trade-offs, and value conflicts. The more permeable the borders between citizens' information and the police, the greater the threat to liberty. If we become too comfortable with the idea of reporting on every imaginable violation or problem, we risk diluting cooperation for more serious problems, overwhelming police resources, and introducing other problems such as invading privacy and unwarranted damage to reputations. Yet paradoxically in a democracy for both legitimacy and effectiveness, appropriate forms of citizen involvement are of the utmost importance.

Published in:

Security & Privacy, IEEE  (Volume:11 ,  Issue: 5 )