As Mary began to explore the album in-depth, she discovered that the site had capability of grouping the photos based on the nature of the events, for example, birthday parties, marriage ceremonies and similar gatherings. Likewise, the site created mini albums involving her parents, siblings, and friends from past and present, utilizing “face-recognition” technology. And that’s when she stumbled upon a small album containing only three photos of a gentleman. But Mary couldn’t identify the gentleman either as a relative or a family-friend. Then she remembered. All three photos were snapped inside a beach-front restaurant during her family’s last three summer vacations in the town of Cape May on Atlantic Coast. The man in the picture always wore a blue polo-shirt, drinking a dark porter. He would sit at one corner of the restaurant near them, thus inserting him into those pictures. But she couldn’t remember ever seeing him with any companion.
This summer, while the family was in the middle of their vacation, Cape May got shaken up by a brutal murder of a vacationing young woman. She was strangled in a dark alley behind a famous restaurant. Local police force released some grainy black and white photographs of the event taken by the nearby security cameras mounted on light-posts, while appealing to the beach-goers to offer tips to apprehend the perpetrators. As she watched the “Breaking News”, the face of that “mystery man” from that small album suddenly flashed on Mary’s brain overlapping with the face of the man in the news. She had no doubt they were the same man. She immediately called the hotline, while e-mailing that mini-album containing three photos to the investigative officers.
Next day, the authority nabbed the suspect, while he was playing poker in a resort in Atlantic City, fifty miles away. He was wearing the similar blue polo-shirt and drinking a black porter. Later, during interrogation, he would admit to the crime as an aftermath of the victim’s resistance to his sexual aggression.
While happy to be a part of the solution, Mary now worries about the unchecked power of a giant network to peek into an individual’s wealth of personal information.
(Author’s note. This fiction benefited from a social conversation with Dr. Shari Rosenbloom and Ms. Cathy Bowen.)