It’s easy to see the many advantages of augmented reality (AR), such as transforming business and accelerating productivity, but AR may also have a downside, particularly when it comes to cybercrime.

Law enforcement officer Joseph Rampolla has worked with a suburban police department in the NY/NJ Metropolitan area for 18 years. Since 2003, he has been specializing in and teaching cybercrime, including cyberterrorism and cyberbullying. He is also dedicated to teaching about the positive uses of emerging technologies while raising awareness of the possible negative aspects of innovation. In addition, he is the founder of the podcast and blog known as “Augmented Reality Dirt.”

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“When we look at any innovation or any emerging technology that happens, eventually it gets bastardized, eventually the bad guys say, ‘Wait a second, we could make so much money doing this.’ Criminals will figure out a way to get money, so … as we look at every emerging technology, there are ways that we have to pay attention to, from a law enforcement perspective and as a society perspective … what are some of the ways that people can become victimized,” Rampolla says.

Through many years of undercover investigations, Rampolla is very familiar with the dark side of cybercrime. His aim is to understand how AR and other emerging technologies can be used for good, while, at the same time, minimizing the risk of innocent members of society becoming victims of cybercrime.

What Types of Crime are Associated with AR and VR?

Augmented reality works by taking digital overlays to augment the senses, although, as Rampolla points out, while we tend to think of AR as mostly relating to the visual sense, it can potentially be used in connection with all the senses. Because of AR’s vast potentiality, it could be used for amazing things, and equally for harmful things, depending on the intentions of the user. Rampolla has experienced AR crossing over to cybercrime in a number of areas, including child abuse.

One area of AR that could be of concern for some is facial recognition (FR). There are some powerful FR programs available, such as Polar Rose. This software enables you to take a picture of your face and automatically link that image to all your social networks. It’s easy to see how the same app could be used to find out information about other people, such as who they are, where they work and all the networks they are associated with. This information could then be used to make false connections with individuals and to take advantage of them. According to Rampolla, this is one of the reasons that software developers are reluctant to go out on a limb to promote these applications.

What Policy Changes May we Want to Consider?

AR is creating worldwide change. Should we, as a global nation, be considering policy changes to ensure that users can benefit from AR and, at the same time, are protected from cybercriminals to the fullest extent? Rampolla does not want to see policy changes because he is concerned that this may stall or even prevent the development of future technologies.

“Technology rolls out so fast that we can’t fathom what could be round the corner,” he says. “I don’t want any regulation as long as people act responsibly, and I’ve seen a tremendous level of responsibility in the AR community. I think we just have to see where things develop, how these applications are being used, and as they are being used, ask what are the great things about them and if there are any downsides to that. I really think that the AR community has been prepared for that because they don’t want this technology to be regulated out.”

While it’s important to be aware of the potential downside of emerging technology, this does not have to override the positive aspects. Raising awareness of the possible dangers means we can prevent them from arising and get the most out of innovations without becoming victims.

Image credit: Geeky Gadgets

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