Earlier this week, I wrote an article about the unexpected dangers of photo-tagging having real life consequences for people.
A few more stories emerged this week that raise questions around social networking, privacy and punishment.
Punishing a thief through YouTube
One of these reports comes from Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) where an embarrassing video was posted on YouTube to punish a fellow student for stealing a laptop.
Online backup software installed on a stolen laptop allowed 18-year-old student and rightful owner, Mark Bao, to remotely and secretly record this video. Bao subsequently posted the video on YouTube, showing the young thief trying out some dance moves in the privacy of his home.
The thief responded to this giving Bao a written heartfelt apology, returning the laptop and begging for the video of his private dance to be removed from YouTube. At the time of writing, the video has received almost a million views.
The question is do two wrongs make a right? Stealing is wrong. We all know that. The thief has not faced any changes as yet, according to SMH. And perhaps now with the embarrassing video out there, the authorities might feel that he has been punished enough.
But should the victim Bao be punished for his retributive actions? As the video was taken remotely by Bao on his own laptop, the university spokesperson said that no action is likely to be taken against Bao.
For the case of argument simplification, let’s ignore the theft for a moment. Does this mean that anyone is allowed to record what they like without consent and post it up for the world to see so long as they use their own equipment?
Is this not the same as some pervert putting a webcam in someone’s house without permission? Or perhaps it is similar to a hotel recording and publishing what goes on in its hotel rooms?
This specific stolen laptop story gets sniggers because many of us feel feel that the thief deserved what he got. The story of a victim fighting back in a unique and entertaining way is a popular one.
But this isn’t the wild west. We have laws to punish the bad guys out there, and perhaps we should be careful about welcoming this type of precedent. I am not sure I am comfortable with anyone handing out punishments at will.
Using social media as a punishment tool has some unexplored consequences. The short term effect in this case is to embarrass the crook who stole the laptop. But could it have much longer term impacts?
Are you starring in Facebook’s Social Ad campaign?
The other interesting story that cropped up this week was Facebook users being used in Social Ad campaigns.
It advertises itself like this:
Everything on Facebook should be relevant and personalized to you, including ads. Social ads pair an advertiser’s custom message with actions your friends have taken, such as liking a Page. This personalized experience gives you the power to tell friends what you like, and to see what they like.
Why anyone would volunteer their face to help a company sell a gizmo or service is beyond me. Don’t people normally get paid when they endorse something in an ad?
It would seem a lot fairer to me if there was also a dislike button, but unfortunately, this model seems to only allow you to give something a thumbs up. Facebook gives you the “power” to tell your network when you endorse a product advertised, but not if you think it is a bit, well, crap.
Now the good news that if you don’t like this feature, you can ensure that it is turned off. Go to your Account Settings page, and click on the Facebook Ads tabbed page, and ensure that the option “Allow ads on platform pages to show my information to” displays “No one”.
If you want to block social ads completely, you can scroll down the page to the option “Show my social actions in Facebook Ads to” and and select ‘No one’ as well.
Read our guide to learn more about how to best secure your Facebook account for better privacy and security and join the Sophos Facebook page, where more than 60,000 people regularly share information on threats and discuss the latest security news.
20 comments on “Opinion: Thief punished through YouTube and Facebook’s Social Ad campaign”
sorry law is pretty useless and stuffed with lawyers and bleeding hearts. In this case there are no bullshit theoretical debates and arguments involved. video taken on s stolen laptop. GUILTY – let the ********* suffer and be outed as a criminal. NO mealy-mouthed excuses!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
How did he remotely turnned on the camera? Did he installed spyware on the PC? I can't see a way for a file backup software to turn on the webcam
He fished the data out of the HDD according to the video description.
So the thief took the footage and he took the data out of his HDD.
I think Mark didn't do anything wrong, he just taking data out of his own HDD.
WTF? How many thieves have been caught on camera and it's posted on the internet!
Hundreds, at least. How does showing an embarrassing video on you tube get you off the hook for theft? This is ridiculous. The video is HIS property and he can do what he wants with it.
I prefer Facebook without a dislike button. At the moment, if you dislike something you can say why in a follow-up comment. However, if you "like" something, you just generally agree with it and support it – no need really to add anything more to that effect in the form of a comment unless you really want to.
We really don't want or need to know just that someone dislikes something – if they do, we want to know why. A dislike button would just end up creating bad feelings, encourage vendettas, tit-for-tat disliking etc.
Facebook's goal is to create a positive, social environment and a dislike button does not fit into that objective.
I was reading about this on Reddit earlier in the week- when it first happened.
It's quite simple though. Laptop is never stolen. Video is never made.
The Social Ad stuff is apparently overblown and based on old information:
for my taste, "ignoring the fact of theft to simplify the argument" goes a bit far in this case. you could also argue that grabbing the arm of a pickpocket is unpolite and rude, once you simplify the argument by ignoring the fact that he just stole your wallet.
all the other more creepy examples in your article either describe the pre-emptive violation of privacy or the use of technology to commit an illegal act.
here, the victim simply reacted and used his wits in an elegant way. the thief was directly confronted with the victim plus an extra topping of shame, which is a good thing when it's deserved.
but like everything in life, it is of course a matter of reasonable means. i just think that this incident isn't a good example to use in arguments about "digital vigilantism".
File backup software would likely log the IP of the computer, which would allow the owner to access its remote desktop software and trigger the camera.
And I have zero sympathy for the thief. He gave up his right to complain when he stole the laptop.
"For the case of argument simplification, let's ignore the theft for a moment. "
Sorry, you can't just ignore half the premise of the situation!!
@tyw7 it sounds like he had some 'online backup data safe' setup where new files on the laptop HDD are uploaded (backed up) to the internet. Of course minus the laptop didn't mean the owner couldn't access his backup files online… Plenty of them about like 'Dell Data Safe'
Yeah but Dell Data Safe will not allow you to turn on the webcam (I have it)
He mostly likely have some lost computer softwares.
if i'm not mistaken, the laptop owner did not actually record the thief – the thief recorded himself (why else do that right in front of the computer's camera while looking into the camera – i've seen the video) and the laptop owner simply gained access to the recording through the online backup facility (the video got backed up).
if i'm correct then that changes the character of what happened significantly and this case no longer serves as a good example of the deeper point carole was trying to make.
as to carole's point, though, society cannot function if we have to involve the authorities for each and every interpersonal conflict. authorities do not scale up all that well so we have to try to work out these sorts of minor differences for ourselves if we can.
Tyw7… After my laptop was stolen from a worksite a couple of years ago, I purchased software that allows me to not only track the computer, but silently turn on the built-in camera. I can use that video in a court of law if needed. This individual simply used it on a social network instead of the court system. Is it right? That's a tough for me, because I do see it as a slippery slope. However, maybe if people posted more photos of people who are stealing equipment, people would think twice about taking gear that didn't belong to them.
@tyw7: Online backup software installed on a stolen laptop allowed 18-year-old student and rightful owner, Mark Bao, to remotely and secretly record this video.
Read more carefully…
yeah but online file backup software would not allow you to do that…
On the other hand lost computer softwares like lojack might.
Sorry but this whole story was a complete fabrication by Mark Bao. Over 40 days passed between when it was supposedly stolen and when he "suddenly realized" he could remotely access it. And for some reason the police were never called….because the whole thing is BS. It's sad the length that some people will go to these days to get popular on the internet.
Did you see the link to http://www.smh.com.au/digital-life/computers/wors… ?
What? It's his computer. He didn't try to put it into someone else's house. He probably didn't consent to it, either. That makes it different from someone setting up a webcam in a public area: he didn't put it there.
It is preferable that Mark Bao would punish the thief with embarrassment rather than hunting him down and shooting him.
However we may feel about it, tracking technology of various sorts are a fact of life. If someone steals your cell phone, its location can be determined, any numbers called by the thief are recorded, and the phone can even be turned on remotely by police.
If you commit a crime in view of a surveillance camera, your mug may appear on America's Most Wanted. Bait cars contain cameras that record the actions of any thief who steps into them. Why should the cops have a monopoly on the use of these things?
The thief may have had a reasonable expectation of privacy in his own home (or dorm room or whatever). He did appear to be recording himself, and his only surprise was to have it end up on YouTube with descriptive text. Well, Bao's approach was creative and non-violent. Had the thief been a better dancer, he wouldn't have been so mortified.
This was a hoax, I cant believe sophos was duped into thinking this story was real. ITS A HOAX, very similar to the guy that was posting the ny hacking times square videos. come on people, if a laptop was stolen you would go to the police come on.