The Google Arsenal: Empowering Wildlife Law Enforcement Agencies

The Google Arsenal: Empowering Wildlife Law Enforcement Agencies

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In modern era where technology has been revolutionizing every aspect of life, wildlife law enforcement agencies also need to harness the digital tools to combat the wildlife crimes. Google has emerged as a powerhouse of open source intelligence (OSINT) and investigation tools that wildlife law enforcement agencies can harness to gain the upperhand in their fight against the wildlife traffickers.

Let me explain in detail how Google can be leveraged as formidable arsenal to combat wildlife crimes:

  • Google Browser: Using adavance search operators, wildlife enforcement officers can narrow down their search result from the deep ocean of world wide web (www) to collect actionable intelligence and information about the wildlife criminals, their modus-operandi, poaching/illegal trade hotspots, illegal wildlife trade routes etc. These advanced search techniques can also be used to monitor illegal wildlife trade on online forums, socila media, online marketplaces  etc. Lawful access to saved user IDs and Passwords in Google Browser of the wildlife crime accused can be of immense help to enforcement officials in getting details of his e-mail accounts & various social media profiles used for illegal wildlife trade related activities. It may also help in getting access to his bank details, crypto-exchange accounts etc. used for payments related to illegal wildlife trade. His search history, cookies saved in his browser can give insight into his online behaviour such as frequent visits to websites related to illegal wildlife trade. Certain specific queries may indicate criminal intent and involvement of the accused in wildlife crimes such as search for poaching techniques, wildlife species in demand, methods to bypass security measures put in place at wildlife protected areas, and queries like how to hoodwink customs and other security agencies at Ports to smuggle wildlife without getting detected etc.
  • Google Alerts: This is a very useful tool for continuous monitoring of online content related to wildlife crimes. Enforcement official can set up alerts for specific keywords such as wildlife, poaching etc. to get promptly notified of new contents related to those keywords.
  • Google Images: Enforcement Agenies can conduct reverse image searches with Google Images. On uploading of the suspected images or screenshots, this tool can assist enforcement officials in tracing their origin and also in zeroing in on the suspects and locations of poaching and illegal wildlife trade.
  • Google Earth: This is a powerful geo-spatial tool that can be leveraged by the enforcement agencies to visually track and anlyze the wildlife crimes. With data such as known domestic and cross border wildlife trafficking routes, poaching hotspots, wildlife protected areas, Google Earth can provide a critical visual insight to enforcement officers  into wildlife crime phenomenon which may help in devising counter strategies. Historical Imagery feature of Google Earth can also be harnessed by law enforcement to observe changes that may have taken place in wildlife protected area landscape which may have serious repercussions for wildlife crimes also.
  • Google Translate: During investigation of transnational wildlife tarfficking, investigators may face linguistic barriers. Google Translate can be of great help in translating various documents, messages, online contents related to wildlife crimes.
  • Google Account of the Accused: Lawful access to the Google Account of the accused may provide details of digital footprints of the accused. Many critical informations about the accused and his activities can be obtained from his Google Account such as his alternate e-mail ID, his other mobile numbers linked to his account, his date of birth, his various devices linked to his account like desktops, laptops and mobile phones (make & model) etc. Informations regarding various free & subscription based apps downloaded from Google Play Store & used by the accused, various payment methods linked to his account, adresses saved by the accused, his contact details etc. which can be crucial evidence against the wildlife crime accused. Similarly, his Gmail communications with his accomplices, his YouTube activities, photos saved in Google Photos may serve as treasure trove of information and evidence against the wildlife criminal, his accomplices and their broader network. The geospatial data stored in Google Maps Timeline may help law enforcement agencies in establishing timeline of wildlife criminal's movement and in linking him with specific incidents of poaching or illegal wildlife trade activities by showing his presence on the scene of crime on particular date and time. Following due process of law wildlife crime investigator can also download and preserve the entire data of the wildlife crime accused from his Google Account which can be used as evidence during the trial even if accused deletes his Google Account subsequently. 
  • Google Drive Back-Up Data: Cloud storag service Google Drive is used to store various types of digital contents online securely. Users also use it for automatic back-up of their data including photos, WhatsApp data etc. Wildlife criminals may use Google Docs & Google Sheets to create and store records of his wildlife crime related activities, payment details etc. Back-Ups of e-mail attachments, photographs, videos, audio recording related to poaching, illegal wildlife trade may also be stored in Google Drive by the accused which can be crucial evidence for prosecution of the wildlife traffickers.
  • Google Colaboratory: This tool provides a cloud-based environment equipped with data-science libraries such as Pandas, NumPy, Matplotlib which can be harnessed by wildlife law enforcement agencies for processing, anayzing & visualizing large dataset of wildlife crimes. It may help in understanding patterns, trends, hotspots, trafficking routes of wildlife poaching & illegal trade and in devising effective counter-strategies. This tool also offers free access to powerful GPUs (Graphical Processing Unit) & TPUs (Tensor Processing Unit) which can be leveraged by wildlife law enforcement agencies to develop Predictive Models for combating wildlife crimes. Pre-trained Machine learning Models like TensorFlow, PyTorch, GeoPandas & Folium when integrated with Google Colab can be utilized by wildlife enforcement agencies for image recognition, natural language processing, analyzing and categorizing wildlife related data, maaping illegal wildlife trade routes, visualizing wildlife habitat data etc.
  • Google Scholar: This is a comprehensive academic search engine that can be leveraged by the wildlife law enforcement agencies to get access to various reserch papers, articles, publications etc. related to wildlife crime and law enforcement.
  • Google Data Studio: This tool can be utilized by willdife law enforcement agencies to connect, consolidate and centralize wildlife crime related various data sources such as poaching/illegal wildlife trade incidents reports, location data, trafficking routes etc. This can help in building interactive and customized dashboards. Such dashboards may provide real time overview of wildlife crime related various aspects and facilitate better decision-making about strategies to counter wildlife crimes effectively.

There is a general perception that the Wildlife Law Enforcement Agencies are not well trained and equipped with proper skllsets of intelligence gathering and effective investigation of wildlife crimes making this fourth largest transnational organized crime a "High Profit & Low Risk Crime". Poor investigation into wildlife crimes often lead to arrest of poor poachers or couriers of wildlife contrabands only, whereas the big players in the supply chain of the wildlife trafficking are often not apprehended and they keep making huge profits by hiring other poachers and couriers exploiting their economic vulnerabilities. Poor investigation and lack of reliable evidences often result into acquittal of the accused. That's why conviction rate into wildlife crimes are very abysmal compared to other serious organized crimes. Failure to secure conviction of wildlife criminals further incentivizes this crime. To reverse this scenario, wildlife law enforcement agaencies must be imparted proper training in using modern digital technological tools to use them in their ongoing battle against the organized wildlife criminal syndicates.

To conclude, as the digital technologies continue to evolve, wildlife law enforcement agencies must keep equipping them with the skillsets for leveraging evolving technological tools in their fight against wildlife crimes. Google provides vast array of OSINT and Investigation Tools which can support wildlife law enforcement in their endeavor to counter this crime.

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Go to the profile of Grace Alawa
8 months ago

Thank you Arvind for this insightful information on the different skillsets offered by Google.

Go to the profile of Arvind Kumar Chaurasia
8 months ago

Thanks @Grace Alawa