Home > Social Media > Social Media and Crime – Part 3

Social Media and Crime – Part 3

No discussion of crime and social media can be completed without discussing law enforcement’s use of technology.

We may think that criminals have the upper hand when it comes to technology, but I believe the upper hand will always belong to the government.  Government use of technology isn’t always intrusive or negative.

I’ve written before how government is using Twitter as an administrative tool for getting citizen engagement on such tasks as reporting potholes or other community issues.  Even the Salt Lake County Sheriff is using Twitter to report canyon closings and openings because of weather.  With the amount of storms we’ve had this year, that’s a good thing.

Law enforcement also conducts investigations using social media.  That’s not necessarily a good thing.  It should also make people think about what they share online and who they share with.

Consider the tale of Maxi Sopo who was being investigated by the FBI for bank fraud.  He was smart enough to head down to Mexico, but dumb enough to overshare on Facebook about the great time he was having in Mexico.

While Sopo’s online profile was private, his list of friends was not. Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Scoville began going through the list and was able to learn where Sopo was living. Mexican authorities arrested Sopo in September. He is awaiting extradition to the U.S.

What makes Facebook a powerful marketing tool also makes it a powerful investigative tool.  In marketing we want to reach the so-called friends of friends.  With investigations, a reverse filter is applied…just as effectively.

Law enforcement is also creating “dummy” profiles or “sock puppets” to catch targets online.

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.

Think you know who’s behind that “friend” request? Think again. Your new “friend” just might be the FBI.

Because everybody uses social media differently, it’s quite possible to friend someone with loose security and then use that “relationship” to connect with your real target.  My personal rule of only friending people I’ve met in real life just got validated.

The FBI isn’t the only three-letter organization to use social media.  The IRS is also on board, using the same tactics.  Facebook offers intimate insights into people and their finances; photos of homes, vehicles and trips.  Why wouldn’t the IRS want to mine that data?

From mining information on social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace, authorities in Minnesota, Nebraska, California and other states have been able to successfully collect back taxes according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.

As social media users, we want to share information with people close to us, but we run the risk of being stalked, hunted by criminals or tracked by law enforcement if we share too much?  What precautions should be taken to protect ourselves, while still being able to express ourselves online?

1.  Think before you tweet, update or check in.  Who could learn the wrong things about you from that update?  Post accordingly.

2.  Remember how interconnected everything is.  I have a tendency to forget my tweets go to LinkedIn.  I don’t filter my friends there because it’s supposed to be professional, but my tweets aren’t always, especially when I use Foursquare.

3.  Maybe privacy is important?  Like Mr. Sopo, I haven’t considered my friend’s privacy in my Facebook profile.  When you Google my name, a random sampling of my friend’s names shows up in the search result.  That’s not really being a friend is it?  I suppose I’ll have to adjust my privacy settings.  Thank goodness Facebook allows us to do that.

4.  Be more selective, not less.  Remember the advantages and disadvantages of the social media profiles you use.  LinkedIn is professional.  Be professional.  Twitter doesn’t reveal a lot of personal information.  Facebook does.  Adjust and use accordingly.

Social media is supposed to be fun.  The last thing we want is for it to get us stalked or robbed or prosecuted.  By being aware of possible negative consequences, we can take the proper steps to enjoy the positive of social media without being encumbered by the negative.

  1. Wealisa
    April 5, 2010 at 10:29 pm

    TYPO: “When you Google my name, I random sampling of my friend’s names shows up in the search result.”


  2. April 25, 2010 at 9:03 pm

    Thanks for that post.Makes me want to learn more info on blog


  3. May 16, 2010 at 6:30 pm

    Keep posting stuff like this i really like it


  4. May 16, 2010 at 7:16 pm

    Thanks for that post.Makes me want to learn more info on blog


  5. February 28, 2011 at 5:48 am

    Great Article! Thanks and best wishes from Hamburg / Germany


  1. April 7, 2010 at 3:38 pm
  2. July 14, 2014 at 4:48 pm

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