Social media plays a big role in the lives of most Americans. Facebook, Twitter and other websites have made it incredibly easy to share each and every thing that is happening in life. One short posting has the potential to reach hundreds or thousands of people at one time, making communication so much faster than telling each friend individually.
However, not every person is using social media just to talk about their new pet. Many individuals are posting either words or photos that implicate them in some type of crime. They do not realize that this information could go to those outside their group of friends. In fact, law enforcement, aggressively searching for information about drug crimes or other criminal activity, may learn about someone's potentially illegal actions.
In some cases, the police may try to befriend the suspect using a dummy profile. The officers send a friend request and if accepted, the police will have full access to the information they need. Or, if police are denied in their friend request, they may befriend some of the individual's online friends. This could lead to the friend discussing some of the information that was posted online.
Many law enforcement agencies are using social media to understand more about gang activity in their cities. Once they know some of the people associated with a particular gang, they can find out who his or her friends are, and perhaps learn more about what sort of crimes have been or will be committed.
If you have a social media account, you need to be very careful about the information that you post online. Assume that anything that you put out there could be read by anyone. Not every online friend is a real person looking out for your best interests.
Source: CNN.com "Police embrace social media as crime-fighting tool" Heather Kelly, August 30, 2012.