It seems there is a good chance Islamic terrorist Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian national linked to Al Qaeda in an attempt to blow up a Detroit-bound airplane was an active social networker. On the Internet, he looked for guidance on issues such as how to reconcile his desire to eat only food sanctioned by his religion without offending his parents who were more lax about their diet. He further confided online that he was lonely and never found a true Muslim friend.
The Washingtton post examined 300 posts which they attribute to Abdulmutallab under user name farouk1986 from an Islamic social networking site. Farouk corresponds to his middle name and 1986 corresponds to his birth year. He also used Facebook according to the newspaper and in his posts he is reported to have said, "My name is Umar but you can call me Farouk."
Social networking sites are amazing as they allow a true picture into the mind of people. And it seems from the trail left by the Islamic terrorist that he was insecure and needed guidance - it would seem he sought out guidance from anyone. It is easy to see how an insecure person could be molded by extremists.
Moreover, if it turns out this user name corresponds to the failed airplane bomber, how will these posts be used in court?
As social networking becomes more popular, it has in turn become an immensely valuable resource for law enforcement. In this case, I am sure there isn't a sane person who isn't thrilled about the use of social networking to aid in the prosecution of a terrorist. What may turn out to be scary however is where this is headed. As GPS information is coupled with Twitter and Facebook status and that is in turn is correlated with SIP presence information from communications systems, privacy is truly a thing of the past.
I am sure we all want technology to be used to track down and prosecute terrorists but as a society we may start to worry when the same technology is used to prosecute people who park illegally or jaywalk.
Let's hope tech innovations are used to help keep global populations safe and don't get used to seek out and prosecute minor infractions.