Poaching goes hi-tech

What does it say about humanity that having invented and popularised hi-tech smartphones now uses them for such dark purposes?

Technology is making our world more transparent. For the most part that has great benefits for society. But this openness may also have unintended consequences. Consider the rhino poaching ring in South Africa that’s now doing its evil work from behind a computer screen – taking the legwork out of what is one of humanity’s oldest activities.

Illegal hunters are, according to reports, increasingly using photos posted on the online picture-sharing website Instagram, as well as other social media networks, to pinpoint their prey. When a GPS-enabled smartphone is used by a tourist to take a picture on an otherwise innocent game drive in a national park and that image is uploaded onto a social media site, the “geo-tags” embedded in the digital file allow poachers to track exactly where the picture was taken and where the animals are.

Humans are hunters, of course, but we are also inventors. What does it say about humanity that, having invented and popularised tech-heavy smartphones, that they are now used for such purposes? Many commentators have suggested the relentless creep of big data is troubling. In this case, it would be hard to argue against them.

Published: May 10, 2014 04:00 AM

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