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Can You See the Suspected 'Grim Sleeper' Serial Killer on Google Street View?

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The alleged "Grim Sleeper" serial killer Lonnie Franklin, Jr., arrested last week and charged with 10 murders, had been arrested at least 15 times, but stayed off the LAPD's radar because DNA was never swabbed. He was eventually caught via familial DNA -- his son was arrested and swabbed, leading authorities to Franklin. It's a first for this approach in the U.S., one that has LAPD Chief Charlie Beck saying it "will change the way policing is done."

That sort of sleuthing could become a matter of heated debate soon, but another controversial matter may have also caught the alleged killer on the street. Franklin, a backyard mechanic, may be the man standing between his house and a car with its hood open on Google Street View (standing next to the guy on the bicycle). If so, how random.

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"There are some concerning privacy implications, particularly when one combines physical data-gathering (collecting DNA not just from the suspect but from relatives or others in the suspect's social network) with the sort of ambient, online data-gathering manifest in services like Google Street View," noted Xeni Jardin at boingboing. "No one will argue that a serial killer should roam free, or that all available technology shouldn't be used to solve violent crimes, particularly a case involving as many deaths over as many decades as this one does. But how might these technologies be mis-used in the future? Guess we'll find out."