Crowdsourcing Corrupt Officials Via Bribespot

May 31st, 2011

Corruption and bribery are a way of life in many countries. aims to use a crowdsourced market to identify officials who demanded bribes, in the hopes of rooting them out.

The Times has a profile of this interesting application of the wisdom of the crowds:

That’s the idea behind Bribespot, a nascent Web site and smartphone app designed to let people shed light on, well, bribes. (A hat-tip to Urbandaddy for bringing this intriguing idea to our attention).

The Web site Bribespot uses the same sort of mobile “check in” technology that services like Foursquare

The Web site says the app employs the same sort of mobile “check in” technology that services like Foursquare use. But instead of letting everyone know that you’re enjoying a fabulous latte at Starbucks, you let them know that you just were forced to pay a bribe to the subway inspector because you were caught riding (in Hungary) without a ticket. “The more check-ins are made at a certain location, the more visible are corruption hotspots on the map,” the site says, and the more likely those in charge of a particular institution are to take heed. “That is where the real change starts,” the site adds, hopefully.

What kind of corruption has been reported so far?

A quick perusal of posts on Bribespot reveals many items from Romania (bribing exam officials seems popular) and other European countries. But there are a smattering from the United States, like someone paying $100 to get their fake I.D. back from a bouncer at a Miami restaurant or paying almost $50 to cut the line to get into a popular bar in lower Manhattan.

This program may have one unintended consequence. Some people want to deal with corrupt officials, where a bribe can bump them to the front of the line. If you know which officials are receptive to bribes, you can ply them with cash, and get what you want.