Online social sports networks as crime facilitators

Bas Stottelaar, Jeroen Senden, L. Montoya

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    Emerging technologies such as broadband services and mobile and wireless technologies create not only benefits for the community but also risks (Choo, Smith & McCusker, 2007). The implications of these developments should be evaluated to make any necessary changes to policing, policy and legislation. This study investigates the risk of disclosure of confidential information via online public exercise routes. The study identified in particular whether a) people inadvertently disclose their home address more often indirectly via online sports tracking networks than directly via other means and whether b) gender and age play a role in this disclosure. In addition, an analysis of the temporal characteristics of runs was performed to establish the window of opportunity for a home burglary and whether running is temporally predictable by hour of day or day of week. A total of 513 RunKeeper users were selected from the Dutch cities of Enschede and Nijmegen. 231 runners (45.03%) were located via RunKeeper and 122 (23.78%) via other Internet (i.e. non-social sports network) sources. It was found that a statistical difference exists between the indirect and direct disclosure of addresses; more runners disclose their home address via online sports tracking networks than via other sources. Furthermore, it was found that age played a role in the direct disclosure of addresses but not in the indirect disclosure. Older users more often disclosed their home address directly than younger ones. Conversely, gender plays a role in the indirect disclosure but not in the direct disclosure. Men more often disclosed their home address indirectly than women. Regarding temporal characteristics, it was found that the window of opportunity for a burglary is approximately 1 hour. Furthermore, the `within subject' analysis suggests that the starting hour of the run is the most predictable temporal characteristic, followed by the duration of the run and the day of the week. This research ultimately shows the extent to which the unique combination of spatial and temporal information available in online sports tracking networks can enable criminals to predict where a potential target lives and when he or she will be out running.
    Original languageUndefined
    Pages (from-to)1-20
    Number of pages20
    JournalCrime science
    Issue number8
    Publication statusPublished - Jun 2014


    • EWI-24780
    • IR-91191
    • METIS-304109
    • SCS-Cybersecurity

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