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Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Police highlight Facebook as e-crime is targeted

Scotland’s most senior frontline police officers have declared war on e-crime and are warning that social networking sites such as Facebook and Bebo are among the biggest threats to our communities because of online grooming and paedophilia.

The Association of Scottish Police Superintendents (Asps) will demand at their annual conference later this week that internet providers and search engines such as Google start regulating themselves to curb growing levels of online crime.

Speaking in advance of the Dunblane conference, Chief Super-intendent David O’Connor, the incoming president of the association, said there was growing concern about increases in e-crime and the lack of regulation by companies online.

His speech will also outline concerns about the fact the police service is over capacity in the management of sex offenders.

Hundreds of millions of pounds are estimated to be lost in Scotland each year as a result of internet scams. O’Connor will say the Scottish Government, internet providers and senior officers need to come together to discuss e-crime and a better way of paying for its policing.

Facebook has been at the centre of a number of court cases involving adults grooming young people. The most high-profile in the UK was that of Ashleigh Hall, 17, who was murdered by convicted rapist Peter Chapman, 33, in Sedgefield, County Durham. She had agreed to meet him after he posed as a young man on the popular site.

Eight members of the worst child abuse network in Scotland were found guilty at the High Court in Edinburgh of a catalogue of charges relating to abuse and indecent images of children as a result of Operation Algebra last year.

O’Connor said: “The industry should be regulating itself and there should be measures in place to counter fraud and exploitation.

“Prevention is far better than cure. While Operation Algebra was a great success we would rather that those crimes had not happened. E-crime is a huge issue for the police – with growing incidents of banking fraud and identity theft.

“On the internet it is very difficult to identify victims and even more difficult to identify suspects. Whilst we are trying to put measures in place to track these people down it is highly specialist, technical and resource
intensive work.”

O’Connor is expected to tell police officers and the Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill: “In terms of public protection one of the biggest threats facing our communities relates to various chat-room facilities providing online social networking sites … Identity fraud and credit card fraud over the internet are costing this country millions of pounds.”

A Facebook spokesperson said: There is no single answer or silver bullet that makes the internet or Facebook safer but we continue to invest in improving the experience for our users on the site.”

Herald Scotland