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Social media is a powerful tool for police

Posted on January 18, 2019

If you are like many in Colorado, social media is important to you. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and others allow you to connect with friends and family, meet people with similar interests, and share the things that are important to you. Did you know that someone else may be lurking among the friends and contacts you allow on your social media accounts?

Law enforcement now uses Facebook and other social media as tools for investigating crimes and keeping tabs on those they suspect are involved in criminal activity. More than 80 percent of law enforcement agencies now use social media to help them solve crimes. In some cases, police formally request that Facebook release certain private information about account holders. However, in many cases, these steps are not necessary.

What are they looking for?

You may be among the many Facebook and other social media users who do not protect your privacy with appropriate settings or restrain yourself from posting incriminating information. If you indiscriminately accept friend requests, you may have a police investigator among your contacts. Police frequently create fake accounts so they can gain access to Facebook users suspected of the following and more:

  • Gang activity
  • Drug activity
  • Property damage crimes
  • Theft

Officers need no warrant since there is no expectation of privacy. While your Facebook posts may provide you with an alibi, you may incriminate yourself if you are not careful about what you post. For example, posting a photo of yourself holding a weapon while you are on probation may be enough for police to obtain a warrant for your arrest. Even if your privacy settings are high, your friends may provide police with access to your posts if they share them or comment on them.

Guilt by association

A friend may post a picture of criminal activity on his or her own page but tag you in it, which can lead police to you. A picture of you with someone whom police know is involved in drug or gang activity may draw suspicion on you even if you have no criminal dealings. Posting pictures or live streaming from parties where drug use or underage drinking is occurring can quickly bring law enforcement to your door.

These are only a few ways in which law enforcement may be monitoring your activity on Facebook and other social media. However, a picture or post rarely tells the whole story, so if you face arrest based on an investigation that relies on your social media presence, you would do well to seek the counsel of an experienced criminal defense attorney.