Search engines have come a long way in a short period of time. Recent algorithm updates at Google have brought search one step closer to being a fully intelligent tool. Google now understands meaning and context to a far more sophisticated degree than was previously possible. While this was designed to improve the results of searching activity, it also has broader implications. Search engines and computer technologies more widely are now becoming increasingly central to the fight against crime. From cyber threats to terrorism and intelligence gathering, the practical benefits of improving technologies are manifold.
One of the most obvious ways online technologies can be used in detecting crime is through social media. Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter can be the source of a particular crime, for example harassment or abuse directed at particular individuals. But beyond that, these sites can also be extremely useful in building up a picture of the people behind them. As a result, law enforcement officers are now increasingly turning to Facebook searches to learn more about suspected criminals and their behavior. In some examples, photos of the trappings of the crime can be enough to add another all-important strand of evidence.
There are also data and records created whenever you do anything online. Emails have time-stamps, as a most basic way of validating when a message was sent. Beyond that, it is possible to track who sent messages, or more specifically the computer and Internet connection that were used to send them. IP address data is one example that can be relatively easily obtained. For the purposes of finding out most things, this level of digging is all that is required to find what you need. But in some situations, you may require a more involved approach.
There are some aspects of detecting crime that call for more specific solutions. When someone is suspected of engaging in criminal activity, digital equipment can be seized under court direction for more detailed analysis. Experts with a digital forensics degree can be called upon to seize equipment, and to further analyze the contents in order to uncover how the machines have been used. While the processes are expert, and governed largely by the legal requirements in the jurisdiction concerned, they are extremely useful for uncovering more particular details that may lead to a conviction.
Search engine technologies have vastly improved over time. It is now feasible to search the so-called “deep web” for more information. Even average searchers can now find narrow, specific pieces of information in seconds. When that is taken a step further into the realms of crime detection and enforcement, the capabilities become so much greater. With the right knowledge and expertise, even removed, deleted or corrupted information can be recovered from individual computers to help lead to prosecution. This actively makes life easier for those concerned in bringing criminals to justice, in terms of computer related crimes and in the wider context.