08/22/2004: Why sponsored links are so much fun....
Stumbling round the St. Louis Post-Dispatch website I came across an interesting story: Police find prostitutes have their number(s). Basicallly, some St. Louis County Police vice detectives busted a couple of prostitutes who, like many, have turned to the World Wide Web for advertising. Apparently, at the time of the bust, the girls had a laptop logged into a website which was a clearinghouse for information about vice cops, including things like license plates and cell phone numbers:
St. Louis County police recently discovered a Web site on which a network of prostitutes had gathered and shared information about undercover officers - mainly theirs.The fun part though was a result of the story's using "hooker", a common slang term for prostitute.
Rick Battelle, commander of the county vice squad, discovered that even his own cell phone number was listed. "That was the shocking thing," Battelle said. He had used it only once to book a "date" with a suspected hooker.
Traditionally, police have kept computerized databases on prostitutes: their movements, fictitious names and hide-outs. Prostitutes have increasingly advertised over the Internet, often under a thin guise of escort services.
What detectives found recently was a melding of the two: a database shared on the Internet to help working girls help each other stay out of trouble.
It was revealed by chance.
Police had been working for months to get close to two women from Springfield, Mo. Like many others, the pair had used message boards, e-mails and Web sites to promote their business and to screen clients. They extended their reach by booking customers in several cities, including the St. Louis area.
"You will still always have the seedy end of prostitution with women on the street trying to feed their crack habit," said county police Capt. Thomas Jackson. "But you also will have others who see it as a business. It's only natural that these people on the high end are going to use technology."
The two from Springfield were wary targets, police said, and getting an appointment was difficult. Officers finally set up a rendezvous and moved carefully. They drove unmarked cars and used fake names. They said they employed secret tactics designed to trick even the most paranoid prey.
Finally, on Aug. 4, an undercover officer met the women at a hotel in Maryland Heights. Once the prostitutes accepted money for a promise of sex, other officers, who were listening in, raided the room.
Investigators found two laptop computers, which they said was common for escorts who work the Internet. But on a Web site on at least one of the computers, the police found something quite uncommon. It was a listing of their own cell phone numbers, undercover names, makes and models of their cars and even license plate numbers.
Prostitutes had paid careful attention to details, for example listing a cell phone number if it had been used to make an appointment that turned into an arrest.
Only a hooker with a secure log-in could get access to the Web page, police were told, and only someone with several hookers to vouch for her could get the log-in.
At the bottom of the page, the Post, like other commercial websites (amazon.com, for instance), uses what are called "sponsored links". Advertisers pay money to keep links to their websites in a database, then an ad server places links on the Post's pages based on the presence of certain triggering words in the story. In this case, the trigger word was, apparently, "hooker".
The ad server served up two sponsored links to websites listing hotels and things to do in the bustling metropolis of Hooker, Oklahoma.
Come to think of it, I wonder if COYOTE (a national sex-worker's "union") has ever thought of holding their convention in Hooker, OK? Seems it'd be appropriate, wouldn't it?
Len on 08.22.04 @ 03:37 PM CST