Sunday, April 18, 2010

Watch Out--Law Enforcement Uses Social Media

Facebook, Inc.Image via Wikipedia

It was simply a matter of time. Social media has become increasingly popular in recent years and law enforcement is now beginning to collect user data from social media sites for evidence. In fact, as reported in this AP article, some FBI officers are actually "going undercover" on social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and MySpace by creating fake profiles. In some cases, undercover officers actually communicate with suspects in an effort to obtain information to support criminal charges. Similarly, as explained in the article, social media sites are being used to confirm suspect's alibis and are being mined for information about suspects, including their activities, their personal relationships and their spending habits. However, as explained in this post from AlterNet, it's unclear whether the warrantless attempts of law enforcement to collect evidence on social media sites is legal:
As law enforcement agents increasingly find reasons to use social-networking sites, questions regarding crime-fighting and privacy arise. The bad news is there are no real good answers regarding what users' rights really are, what social-networking companies are required to do (and not to do), and what regulations ought to govern the use of these sites in investigative law enforcement work given that there isn't really a legal system designed to supervise social-networking sites.
Unfortunately, this is one of the areas where the laws and regulations that control law enforcement agencies' actions haven't yet caught up with new technologies. And, until a court holds that these warrantless intrusions are unlawful, the police will continue to mine social media sites for evidence. What does that mean for you? It means that you should exercise caution when using social media. Don't post anything on social media sites that you wouldn't want shared with the entire world. If you are currently facing DUI charges, don't post pictures in which you are drinking alcohol or are out with friends who are drinking. Don't allow others to photograph you engaging in questionable activities that could reflect poorly on you or on your pending case. The bottom line--use common sense. Think before you post updates to a social media site. If you think it might be a bad idea to post a particular photo, it probably is a bad idea. Finally, don't accept friend requests from people that you don't know. Social media is a part of our lives; it's not going away. If you'd like to participate in social media, then by all means, do so. But be smart about it. Don't give law enforcement--or anyone else--access to information that could be used against you. Just like anything else-- it's better to be safe than sorry. Visit Americas Top DUI and DWI Attorneys at or call 1-800-DIAL-DUI to find a DUI OUI DWI Attorney Lawyer Now!
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