Law enforcement is invading social networking websites. The Feds are on Facebook. And Myspace, LinkedIn and Twitter, too.
U.S. law enforcement agents are following the rest of the Internet world into popular social-networking services, going undercover with false online profiles to communicate with suspects and gather private information, according to an internal Justice Department document that offers a tantalizing glimpse of issues related to privacy and crime-fighting.
U.S. agents are already logging on surreptitiously to exchange messages with suspects, identify a target’s friends or relatives and browse private information such as postings, personal photographs and video clips.
Among other purposes: Investigators can check suspects’ alibis by comparing stories told to police with tweets sent at the same time about their whereabouts. Online photos from a suspicious spending spree – people posing with jewelry, guns or fancy cars – can link suspects or their friends to robberies or burglaries.
According to the article, Facebook, Myspace and Twitter have interacted with federal investigators: Facebook is “often cooperative with emergency requests,” the government said. Myspace preserves information about its users indefinitely and even stores data from deleted accounts for one year. But Twitter’s lawyers tell prosecutors they need a warrant or subpoena before the company turns over customer information, the document says.
My opinion? If you put it out there, it’s open to the world. Period.
Let’s be frank: it was only a matter a time before the Feds started conducting investigations using social networking sites. Indeed, I’ve had former clients busted for prostitution because they sell their services on Craigslist, and the police acted as “Johns” to set up a sting.
Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.