Off the Internet no one knows you’re an escapee

Craig “Lazie” Lynch escaped from prison in September of 2009. Recently, he has become somewhat of an international spectacle as he has been posting some regular updates on Facebook. Some probably wonder, first, what is he thinking, and second, why are so many people interested in his whereabouts?

As for why he is doing it, no doubt Craig is having fun taunting police. The man has already jumped a few psychological hurdles insofar as he presumably completed an aggravated burglary as well as escaped from prison. I imagine he enjoys considering himself more clever than those who would keep him imprisoned. And if he is going to be some sort of micro-celebrity, where else than on Facebook? The technology is easy, well understood and very well adopted.

But as for the second, I doubt that Craig is fuelling a rash of copy cat prison breaks or of them posting on Facebook as a consequence. Rather, I think people are revelling in the idea that there is still a clear firewall between online and offline interactions. Everyone downloading a movie or music, checking out porn, or posting a rude comment will take some measure of satisfaction in the idea that deviance online is not easily punished; that the authorities do not have a master control system that tracks, monitors and ultimately captures people instantly, and that while Google makes the internet findable, the internet doesn’t necessarily make people findable. CCTV, airport screenings and roadblocks are as much about self-policing as they are about successful interventions. These are disciplining technologies.

The reinforce the idea that surveillance is as much about self-policing as it is about policing, one need only examine the group “We Hate Craig Lynch”. The comments therein are not simply directed at Craig for what he has done, but Craig for undermining the entire system. “I hope the police find him and put him away for life. And for him life should mean life, no chance of parole or visitors NOTHING. Hes a bastard.” says one commenter. Of course, comments are somewhat more mixed on his own wall, but there are more than a few wellwishers: “All people say the Policemen in Greece aren´t good.Here´s a example for the british policemen ( won´t catch him anyway ).GOOD LUCK CRAIG”. He is now a pariah and a hero of the online world.

I have no doubt that Craig will be found. The story of Evan Ratliff at Wired is a lesson here. If enough people really want to find you, you’ll be found, and the technology to keep you truly anonymous online is somewhere between impressively complex and virtually impossible. But in the meantime, and as long has he’s staying above the law, it is not hard to find his arrogance just a bit charming – off the Internet no one knows you’re an escapee? But if word leaks of Craig doing one violent act since his escape the sympathy will undoubtedly vanish as quickly as Craig did…and here comes everybody.