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State Department Launching Manhunt Contest Using Social Media With $5,000 Reward


“This exercise demonstrates the globalization of open source."

(Image: Tag Challenge)

At the end of March, the U.S. State Department wants you to help them catch five "jewel" thieves in five different U.S. and European cities. Their mugshot and a short description will be your only source of information and social media and technology, your tools.

If you're the first to find all five thieves, there is a $5,000 reward waiting for you.

This effort, called the Tag Challenge, was announced earlier and is sponsored by the Department in its effort to test the use of social networking and crowdsourcing for use in public safety.

“It has become increasingly obvious over the past few years that open source information, especially in an age of social networking, can be at least as valuable as classified information,” said Marion Bowman in a statement in February. Bowman was formerly Deputy Director in the Office of the National  Counterintelligence Executive and a Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Technology and National Security Policy.

“This exercise demonstrates the globalization of open source,” he continued.

The suspected thieves will be out and about in New York, London, Washington, Stockholm, and Bratislava on March 31. The world will have 12 hours to find them.

The challenge was organized by graduate students from six different countries and is also sponsored by the US Embassy in Prague and the Institute for  International Education. Wired has more on how the idea came to be:

George Washington University graduate student J.R. deLara looked at these contests — and others — as part of a State Department-sponsored conference on trans-Atlantic security and social media. The contests “were making these claims about the ability of social networks to accomplish real-time tasks in real life. That this wasn’t just a parlor trick,” deLara tells Danger Room.

“So we thought: Let’s test this. Let’s test this question,” he adds. “Could you really use these strategies to find a person of interest, a vehicle of interest, or some actionable intelligence?”

A proposal quickly followed, and State Department funding followed quickly after that.

This project has been noted as similar to DARPA's 2009 Network Challenge, which awarded students at MIT $40,000 for first identifying the coordinates of its 10 balloons. DARPA also appealed to the general public in its shredder challenge last year, which tested participant' skill at deciphering bits of shredded paper in an effort to put shredder security to the test.

Learn more about the Tag Challenge here.

[H/T Popular Science]

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