Facecrook, a new smartphone application, allows users to keep a digital notebook for recording suspects and persons of interest. Users can add other users, much like Facebook friends, to create a network. Any profile created by a user will be shared with their network.
The app was made for law enforcement and security professionals, but is available and free for anyone to download. According to the website, law enforcement and security professionals can share information through Facecrook effortlessly, as each updated profile is emailed out to the user's network.
Lt. Jeffrey Bloch, the creator and developer of Facecrook, has been a police officer with the Fairfield Police Department in Conn. for 25 years.
"The inspiration (for Facecrook) was the lacking ability to share information, between officers in the same department, as well as between jurisdictions," Bloch said.
Criminal defense attorney Jennifer Bukowsky praised the concept of Facecrook.
"Facecrook is a novel idea and I like the idea of law enforcement leveraging technology to improve in the performance of their jobs," Bukowsky said. "This is a more efficient way of keeping everyone up to date."
Matt Akins, founder of the Columbia-based group Citizens for Justice, is skeptical about the app.
"Although Facecrook was created by law enforcement for law enforcement, it is not run by a public body and is therefore exempt from many of the checks and balances that keep law enforcement accountable and transparent," Akins said. "No matter how popular it becomes, the real test of Facecrook won't come in the court of public opinion, it will come in a court of law where judges will have to decide the validity of investigations conducted and evidence produced using Facecrook. All it would take is one well-publicized decision to dismiss a case based on Facecrook's use by police or prosecutors to set a precedent barring or discouraging the use of the app in official investigations and kill its popularity amongst law enforcement, its targeted demographic."
Bloch said there is no way to search through Facecrook users' profiles from outside of a partnership, meaning people are completely unaware whether or not they have been listed as a suspicious person.
"I am sure there are legal issues with this application, especially if they are sharing information about juveniles, if they shared information with persons that were not allowed access to that information," Bukowsky said. "There is actually a statute making it a crime to disclose information about a juvenile and an officer got in trouble for violating that statute a couple of years ago by making comments online on the Columbia Tribune. If (the Columbia Police Department) starts using this application, then I will have to demand they send me the information posted on this site about my clients through the discovery process."
CPD declined to comment about the app.
Bloch plans on releasing a spinoff app called Facecrook Global.
"(Facecrook Global will be) built upon the same concept (as Facecrook), but complete control over a company/agency version of the app rests with the administration rather than individual users," Bloch said.
Facecrook Global will require users to be added by administrators.
"All profiles entered by users are the property of the agency … (and) profiles aren't lost when an employee is separated from the agency," Bloch said.
Administrators will be able to set strict access controls and permissions to individual users, including whether or not a user can edit profiles they add or profiles added by others. Every user will see all profiles belonging to the agency, requiring no individual partnerships and device ID's can be tracked, providing an additional layer of security according to Bloch.