Google now helps catch criminals. The FBI identified a Citibank PIN thief by cross-referencing security camera footage with an ICQ handle and personal photos on ham radio enthusiasts sites. [Information Week]


Edit Your Comment

  1. boandmichele says:

    using google to catch criminals is one thing. subpoenaing google to give up information they shouldnt keep in the first place…that is a different animal altogether.

  2. theblackdog says:

    I have a feeling we’ll hear a lot more stories about this in the future. Hell, employers already Google applicants to see if there are photos of them on their MySpace page having a bit too much fun down in Cancun.

  3. Skiffer says:

    Google also helps China censure its media and turns over information to help identify and prosecute political prisoners…

    Hooray for Google!

  4. Derv says:

    Has anyone ever heard of the Target Crime Lab? []
    @theblackdog, I totally agree. I sometimes get asked to vet people because I have access to a few crime databases, and what I find doing a simple google search can be a lot more damning than a what their rap sheet says.

  5. Shark1998 says:

    Like it or not, Google does provide a great service to law enforcement, especially when it comes to tracking down pedophiles/ murderers and the like. Google will bend over backwards to help.

    In that respect, Google may want to consider posting “Amber alerts” or something similar on their main page to help. With the number of people using Google on a daily basis…..could you imagine the results?

  6. GenXCub says:

    I think Stan and Kyle stumbled onto this awhile back too.

  7. superlayne says:

    They have ham radio enthusiasts sites? Really? You learn something new everyday.

    Whenever I google my name, though, I just get some 11 year old girl who is really good at fishing. Also, a buffalo.

  8. Frank From Virginia says:

    @theblackdog: That is true blackdog. Those are the ones I hire!

  9. figz says:

    People still use ICQ?

  10. Kajj says:

    @Skiffer: Isn’t their corporate mission statement “Don’t be evil?” They must be splitting hairs. “Oh sure, we’re DOING evil, but that doesn’t mean we ARE evil…”

    I’m confused as to how they linked the thief to ham radio sites in the first place. That is not the first place I’d look for a crime ring.

  11. Chris Walters says:

    @Kajj: Google didn’t actively participate in the ID of the criminal. The FBI simply performed a search on Google for an ICQ handle they suspected was connected to a data broker, and that led to the ham radio enthusiasts sites. That’s when they matched up the photos on that site to footage they already had of a guy in Brooklyn stealing from ATMs.

    Bad luck for the criminal, good luck for the FBI, and an example of how Google’s all-seeing eye can help connect some fairly disparate dots.

  12. stacye says:

    @Kajj: You could read the article.

    They saw the dude on the ATM video. Police began monitoring carder activities. Someone posted an ICQ message, and their nickname was attached. Police googled the nickname. Found nickname on HAM radio sites. Nicknamed person was dressed the same as in ATM video. Step 3: Profit.

  13. stacye says:

    @Chris Walters: I guess I should hit refresh before replying to articles that have been sitting on my browser for a while :)

  14. AD8BC says:

    @superlayne: Of course there are!! As of July 1, there are 656,000 licensed amateur radio operators in the US, and in 2000 there were 2.79 million in the whole world. I am one of them! With that number of people interested in a hobby, there are lots of enthusiast sites ( as an example), a large national organization ( and many local clubs (i.e. and are two that I belong to). Many of the clubs (and the national ARRL) are charitable organizations, I have run one of them myself.

    Ham radio operators are the ones responsible for providing emergency communications after disasters — all volunteers. After Katrina and 9/11 and such, they were vital. And, most tornados are spotted by ham radio operators who relay the sightings to the National Weather Service via ham radio.

    Didn’t know if you were being sarchastic or not :-) so I decided to school some people here to ensure that, simply because this joker was a ham radio operator, we are not all like that!

    @stacye: I think this joker was probably using his callsign as a nickname on the website, like I do here (AD8BC). Once you have someone’s FCC callsign you can look it up at or and have their home address, etc.

  15. coren says:

    So more like “knowing how to use the internet catches bad guys” than “google helps catch bad guys”