Web 2.0, Border Security, and Alcohol

In one of the strangest new ways that the internet is affecting our lives, pub patrons in Australia are patrolling the US border with Mexico while they drink:

The United States has unveiled an unlikely weapon in its battle against drugs gangs and illegal immigrants at the Texas-Mexico border – pub-goers in Australia.

The drinkers are the most far-flung of a sizeable army of hi-tech foot soldiers recruited to assist the border protection effort.

Anyone with an internet connection can now help to patrol the 1,254-mile frontier through a network of webcams set up to allow the public to monitor suspicious activity. Once logged in, the volunteers spend hours studying the landscape and are encouraged to email authorities when they see anyone on foot, in vehicles or aboard boats heading towards US territory from Mexico.

So far, more than 100,000 web users have signed up online to become virtual border patrol deputies, according to Don Reay, executive director of the Texas Border Sheriffs’ Coalition, which represents 20 counties where illegal crossings and drugs and weapons smuggling are rife.

“We had folks send an email saying, in good Australian fashion, ‘Hey mate, we’ve been watching your border for you from the pub in Australia’,” he said.

Truth is stranger that fiction. And the internet is stranger still.

Not everyone is amused, however:

Opponents have dismissed the project as “the perfect Google border” and say the cameras do little to deter criminal activity. “Border security deserves trained professionals, not pub-goers in Perth,” said Eliot Shapleigh, a state senator from El Paso, Texas, who claims that the programme has resulted in only a handful of arrests. “It’s wholly ineffective for the governor’s stated goal of security, it panders to extremists for political purposes and it’s not an effective use of $2m for just three apprehensions.”

I’m sure there is a Google PR person cringing even now thinking “why do you have to drag us into this?”

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