NYPD to Troll Facebook and Twitter to Help Solve Crime
The New York Police Department has opened a new unit, wholly dedicated to tracking suspects online via social media outlets like MySpace, Twitter, and Facebook. While many people share without abandon on their social media sites, not thinking (or even caring) about who might read the details of their life and what they might think. If you didn’t already wonder who was accessing those status messages, now you can rest assured that the long arm of the law will be watching.
Anything you put onto a social media site, regardless of your account settings, is in the public domain. If I can see it (without being your “friend” or “follower”), rest assured the police can see it too. The NYPD has already made arrests based off of social media accounts and they hope this new unit will only increase their investigatory resources.
photo credit: Andrew Feinberg
Media sources indicate social networking played a major role in the orchestration of riots in London a few weeks ago as citizens used Twitter and Facebook to both choose targets and alert each other to the presence of police. The police also used the networks to turn around and post photos of looters in an effort to solicit help in identifying them.
The new NYPD unit will be led by Assistant Commissioner Kevin O’Connor and will operate under the Community Affairs Bureau. O’Connor is said to have been responsible for assisting with a number of shooting cases in which details were “gleaned from online boasting,” according to the NY Daily News.
When you post something in the public realm, like Twitter for example, it is available to anyone. If you confess to a crime or simply mention where you are, it can be used as evidence against you just as if you hung a poster announcing your guilt. When it comes to online information, you are best to assume that nothing is private, particularly on social media networks.
Police often need a warrant to gather evidence in a criminal case. However, if there is no expectation of privacy on the part of the citizen, no warrant is needed. When it comes to your Facebook profile, you can be sure there is no expectation of privacy and therefore no warrant is needed.
Criminal investigations have changed dramatically over the past decade as police work to keep up with technology. It was only a matter of time before the Wild West that is the Internet came under control of the police.
If you are charged with a criminal offense and have questions about the evidence or the potential outcome, contact our attorneys today.