Bits and Bytes: Find thieves, win $5,000

“Jewel thieves have stolen a prized diamond. Help find them. Win $5,000.”

That quote sums up the Tag Challenge, a where-in-the-world-is-Carmen-San Diego-styled contest sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Embassy in Prague and the Institute for International Education.

The goal of the contest is to locate the five fictitious members of the Panther Five who have stolen the Adly Diamond, the world’s third most expensive jewel, from the Overholt Showroom in Washington D.C. Members of the group have since gone into hiding in five cities across the world.

The contest, organized by graduate students from six different countries, is part of an ongoing assessment of the value of social  networks as tools for international cooperation and 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, former Deputy Director in the Office of the National Counterintelligence   Executive, and a Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Technology and National Security Policy.

The desired outcome of the experiment is to find a way to use social media to find criminals, terrorists or kidnapped victims.
This is not the first experiment of its kind.

In 2009, the DARPA Network Challenge awarded $40,000 to a team from the MIT for being able locate the coordinates of ten weather-balloon stations across the United States.
The Tag Challenge began March 31.  Contestants can join any time during the contest.

For contest rules and more information about the Tag Challenge, visit www.tag-challenge.com.