Police in the US are becoming more adept at using social media to take down criminals. Information harvested across social networks has helped cops solve various crimes including theft, murder, and drug use.
Melvin Colon, who is facing charges of murder and narcotics-related crimes, unwittingly posted incriminating information on Facebook such as threats against others and references to past crimes.
Unfortunately, one of Colon’s friends on Facebook gave the police access to his private information, and on 10 August, a judge ruled that Colon forfeited his claim to privacy when he disseminated those details to his friends.
The judge wrote that Colon’s claim to privacy ended when he shared his Facebook posts with his friends because these people are free to use the information in any way they want, including sharing it with the government.
Aside from requesting private data directly from the companies via warrants or subpoenas, the authorities are also creating fake identities on social media sites to gather evidence from suspects and gain access to private information.
These techniques are now widely used across the US. Based on a recent study of 1,221 law enforcement agencies, four out of five officials utilise social media networks to mine for information during investigations. Half of the respondents revealed that they check these sites once a week, while most said these portals have facilitated crime-solving.
The online survey also found that Facebook is considered the most useful site for conducting investigations, followed by YouTube. The poll, which has a 2.8 per cent margin of error, was carried out by LexisNexis Risk Solutions.