Law enforcement agencies have a new tool that is proving to be increasingly effective in controlling and solving drug crimes. Social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter provide a wealth of information that police and investigators can use to fight crime and bring criminals to justice.
When trying to solve drug crimes, law enforcement agencies use several resources to gain information about a suspect's location, activities and possible accomplices. Over 1,200 law enforcement agencies have employed the use of social media accounts, such as Facebook, to collect information and build solid cases against criminals, according to CNN.com.
In 2013, a New York judge ruled that information found on a defendant's Facebook page was admissible in court even though his profile was "private". The fact that he shared information with friends over a public social media network negated his right to privacy considering his friends could then share it with whoever they wanted.
Individuals who are involved in gang activity and drug crimes will often boast about their exploits on social media sites posting pictures and details for their friends and other gang members. Many don't realize that whatever is posted on a public forum and can be accessed by others becomes fair game for law enforcement agencies.
Police officers can create time lines, determine what individuals were involved with what incident and find possible locations where criminals may hide if they are trying to avoid being captured. Unlike private emails where a message is sent from an individual's personal account to a single recipient, a Facebook post is visible to everyone who is allowed to view a person's page.
Law enforcement officers can quickly "mine" for information by searching the pages of a suspect's known affiliates. In some cases, undercover Facebook accounts can also be created. Facebook frowns on this practice; however, claiming jeopardizes the site's credibility. It is believed that just short of 10 percent of the profiles created on Facebook are fake or, in some way, fraudulent.
Federal, state and local laws prevent law enforcement and police agencies from retrieving information from private sources. This is why search warrants must be obtained before going through text messages and emails. Social forums remove any semblance of privacy, even if a person's page is not displayed publicly. The fact that a person sends communications openly between pages that are viewable by more than just the recipient, removes the semblance of privacy making it public.
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