One of the Many Heroes in the Boston Marathon Bombing – Technology

Last week has been a traumatic and triumphant week for the city of Boston. From the Boston marathon attack to the capturing of the suspect, it was a week that highlighted humanity’s compassion and love for one another. There were many heroes in light of such devastating tragedy, from the guy with the cowboy hat taking the injured to care, Boston police for protecting the citizens to the citizen that phoned in and helped locate the suspect; it truly has been a hell of a ride.


Amongst these heroes is Technology. Why was technology a hero? Bill Kleyman, a virtualization and cloud solution architect at MTM Technologies believe Technology is a hero because of the amount of new technologies that were at the disposal of the law enforcement officers. In his article, Kleyman compares the technologies that are readily available now to when 9/11 happened and how those became important in the aftermath of helping to identify the suspects


Social Media plays its part.


CCTV helps identify the suspects.


Everyone is a Digital technician.

A method that the investigators used was crowdsourcing. Crowdsourcing is “the practice of obtaining needed services, ideas, or content by soliciting contributions from a large group of people, and especially from an online community”. However it was the data that the investigators have crowd source and the investigation itself was not. We learned in class last Thursday the advantage of having a lot of data at disposal. The in class example of Harrah’s loyalty system, which allowed them to have data to correctly guess their target consumer has helped expand the business. Why you need data? It is because by having data one is able to better determine the target audience instead of guessing. This applies to the investigation as well. With crowdsourcing, loads of data are being flooded in that can help investigators with the investigation and help identify those that seems to be suspicious and those that are innocent.


Crowdsourcing – helping to piece together the reality of the bombing

How this runner gets the picture of the Suspect.

A classmate of mine, John Bagamery, also related to the tragic event that took placed (Reverse Network Effects: Can a Network become too big) and discussed the possibility of having a network that is too big and a reverse effect can occur that affects the connection and content. He illustrates the point that when a network gets too big, such as a social site, many people were misinformed after the bombing happened. There were panics all over these sites and fake news begin to travel hard and fast. How many of us were misinformed by hearing about a potential bomb at St. Ignatius via social media like Twitter?  It seems technology and its interconnectedness may also negatively affect investigations etc. John’s video in his post also talks about how the government has been reaching out to the data mining companies in trying to figure out activities of the Tsarnaeva brothers.


Phil Simon, a blogger at, posts this question of the “sticky ethcal conumdrum” involving to when do we draw the line between privacy and giving such data to government so that an attack like this can be prevented. He believed that this is a question, “in an era of Big data…. Make answering this question more important than ever.” In addition to this ethical question, apparently there is malware exploiting the tragic event of the Boston Bombing, which is quite infuriating to hear about. Because of advancement in technologies, investigators were able to quickly identify and put this tragic event behind us. However, such event has also raised some questions regarding the line between privacy and big data as well as possible reverse network effect. Technology may still continue to be a double-edged sword, but in the light of the bombing one thing is certain, my (maybe our?) faith in humanity never cease to exist. So lets thank the runners who ran to donate blood, the officers that kept us safe and the citizens that helped one another through this catastrophic week.






8 thoughts on “One of the Many Heroes in the Boston Marathon Bombing – Technology

  1. Technology really is a “double edged sword”. In regards to the Boston Bombing social media was both helpful and harmful. On the one hand people were able to get in contact with loved ones and form support groups using online sites, on the other it distracted from what was factual with all the rumors flying around. Twitter was helpful during the bombings because it helped me let my friends know I was okay, on the contrary it was detrimental because someone made a fake twitter for one of the bombers that was repulsive and appalling. Technology can really be used both ways. I had no idea about that guy’s photo and how helpful it was. It’s amazing that an average citizen helped with so much detective work just be snapping a photo on his phone.

  2. The events of this past week were the perfect example of technology as a double edged sword. Last Monday, rumors spread like wildfire over social media, especially the one regarding a possible explosive device in St. Ignatius Church. The high availability of news over the Internet is so appealing especially in times of crisis I found it difficult to tear myself away from the computer and focus on something else. On the other hand, the law enforcement officials may not have had any leads for some time if it had not been for civilian crowdsourcing, most notably the contribution from David Green. The investigation could have gone on much longer with the suspect still at large and our sense of security still very much lost.

  3. I think these events show the importance of technology and fast communication. On a basic level, security cameras that can record people in public is a huge asset to investigations. One of my first reactions when they started their search for the suspects was “how did investigators ever figure out who was responsible for a crime before there were cameras?” Videos and photos, such as the one taken by the marathon runner, make it so much easier to find criminals. I also think the instant communication is such an important part of keeping everyone safe. Within minutes of the bombings on Monday, my roommates and my phone were all ringing from parents and family who wanted to make sure we were okay. We then turned around and used social media or called anyone we knew who was still running/had run/was downtown to warn them. Instant communication and news reports keeps everyone up to date and safe. Even in our own BC community – I knew what was going on when I received a text from BC emergency at 6 am on Friday. And the rest of the nation/world can follow along to all the events and be updated on a minute basis through news reports and social media updates, as you point out. Sometimes technology can be an invasion of our privacy, but when it comes to a situation like this, I want to bombarded with updates, texts, news reports, and I am happy that there are surveillance cameras.

  4. Last friday, I spent almost the whole day watching live news, refreshing twitters and talk with my friends with internet. Technology was the only thing i could rely on to find the most updated news. On the same friday, there was a big earthquake in my country China that killed about 180 and more than 10000 injured. I was informed immediately because of the chinese Twitter. These are the experience i personally had with the advantages of technology last week. I believe that Technology is really making our life easier in these kind of situations. I like how you explains it with the term crowd sourcing, it reminds me of the big list I found in the news site that updates every time when some random person twitted about the event.
    I like how you implement so many photos and videos in the blog, and most importantly the highlight of important words with blue color. NICE JOB!!!

  5. I think crowdsourcing investigations like this is going to change how fast agencies can find suspects and persons of interest. The identification of the two suspects was due largely to people sharing the photos on the internet. Their faces were all over my twitter and facebook feeds, and on all of the websites I check regularly. However, this crowdsourcing can also cause harm. Reddit originally was spreading suspicious pictures of what turned out to be innocent victims of the attack. The images spread so much they ended up on the front page of the New York Post, even though they hadn’t done anything. Additionally, Sunil Trapathi, a student who has been missing for weeks, was included in a theory and assumed to be a terrorist for almost a full day before that theory was disproved.

  6. I agree that this week has demonstrated both sides of the “double-edged sword” of technology. However, I think the positive side of the sword outweighs the negative side. The use of technology did assist the police in determining the suspects and helped them gain information on the suspects. Without the use of the surveillance videos the police would not have been able to discover who was responsible or planting the backpacks. Social media also played a big part in promoting those suspect photos resulting in higher public awareness. The negative effects you pointed out concerning privacy are serious concerns, but the points about inaccurate information should be disregarded. People should know not to trust everything posted on the internet, especially social media sites. Thus, I believe the positive effects easily outweigh the negative effects of technology in this situation.

  7. The fake information spread by Twitter certainly aided in creating a panic. Reports of bombs in everywhere from the T to St. Ignatius were spread, and numerous people were mistaken for the bombers. These misreports had their negative effects, but I would say, however, that the crowd sourcing of the investigation was a blessing and not a curse. The information that the investigation was able to get came in quick and allowed them to stay on the bombers tail. In the end, they were able to catch the perpetrators within a week with the help of the data. Certainly there were negative side-effects, but I’m glad that it was there.
    This was a very interesting topic, and I think you structured it well. The visuals were used well, and the video was on point. Nice blog. Wish you had thrown this one in though.

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