State Dept Sponsors Online Tag Game: Locate “Jewel Thieves” and Win $5,000

The Challenge: Locate and photograph five “suspects,” members of a mock gang of jewel thieves in five different cities in the United States and Europe

When:  Saturday, March 31. Contest begins at 8:00 am, local time, in each of the respective cities. The contest will start in Bratislava and Stockholm at 8:00 am Central European Time, or 2:00 am US Eastern Time.

Where: Washington, D.C., New York City, London, Stockholm, and Bratislava

Below is an excerpt from the tag challenge presser:

The 2012 Tag Challenge calls on technology enthusiasts from several nations to set their sleuthing skills loose on a mock gang of jewel thieves in an international search contest to take place Saturday, March 31.

The social gaming contest will have participants use technological and social resources to locate and photograph five “suspects” in five different cities—Washington, D.C., New York City, London, Stockholm, and Bratislava—based only on a picture and a short description of each one.

The first person to upload pictures of all five suspects to the Tag Challenge website will earn international bragging rights—and a cash prize of $5,000.

The fake suspects include Freddie “Four Fingers,” who is a demolitions expert. Originally wanted for his role in an audacious heist to steal a Faberge egg from the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg by firing it from a 19th century Tsarist cannon in an adjacent showroom and onto a waiting motorboat in the Baltic Sea. [Really? A Tsarist cannon?]  The ringleader thought to be a resident of Bratislava, Chuck Lytton is known for his audacious plans and schemes. Apparently, this one once trained a band of indigent marathon runners to divert the route of the Olympic flame for sale on the black market.  Another suspect, called a technical expert is Teresa Bay who was arrested in 2001 for counterfeiting Starbucks gift cards in an attempt to amass one billion reward points, redeemable for the “Grandissimo” VIP status that entitles its holder to unlimited coffee.

The press statement quotes Gary Anderson who served as the first Director of the Marine Corps’ Center for Emerging Threats and Opportunities praising the tag challenge saying, “It is ‘out of the box’ thinking at its best.” He also said that, “This experiment could give us new insights on tracking terrorists and finding missing children.”

Marion Bowman, formerly a Deputy Director in the Office of the National Counterintelligence Executive, and a Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Technology and National Security Policy said: “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.”

The organizers? This is what the website says:

“Tag Challenge was conceived and organized by a group of graduate students from six different countries, the outcome of a series of conferences on how social media could be used to improve transatlantic security. Funding and support were provided by the US State Department and the US Embassy in Prague, in association with the Institute of International Education.”

I can’t tell from browsing the website how many graduate students from which different countries worked on this project. And besides the prize money of $5,000, there is no way to tell upfront how much is the total cost of this online game.

The tag challenge website is here:

Contest rules are here: