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Criminal

Facebook is used by police

By Lawrence Forstner

It may not seem like the most unbelievable news to learn that the police are on Facebook, but yes that's right, the police use social media too! And I don't mean their personal Facebook accounts. In fact, one of the first places police go when they are trying to figure out who might be involved in a crime is to the Facebook pages of people associated with events surrounding the crime or the actual victims. No, they don't think that the suspect will openly admit to a crime right on Facebook (although see below for a little story about that!). Instead, when the police are trying to put together what happened, they look at all the pictures that people or venues post. Who is standing close to the victim? Can we identify all the people in the photographs? Then they begin digging. Who is known to police already? What do their criminal histories look like? There's a mint of information out there on social media that just jumps off the page.

It's the same for anybody really. If predators are looking for victims, they go to social media to see what sort of seemingly innocuous information they can find, that might help them to gather important biographical information that can be used to ferret out more useful information in the planning of crime. That's why we always tell our kids not to reveal too much. But what is too much? For police, just seeing group pictures can be huge. If they have already figured out one person they suspect, all they have to do is put together the pieces of who is pictured most often with that individual. Then they begin digging into pictures on that person’s profile. And so on. Facebook is a great way for business owners to advertise and get known in their communities, but it is equally useful for a host of others, interested in gathering information. 

Let's be honest, we've all 'creeped' a Facebook page or two - people we once had crushes on, or people we don't like. It's no different for the police. And sometimes the police literally find gold on Facebook, like a case I know about from a few years ago. A group of friends had stormed a home and robbed jewelry and sports memorabilia from a crew they had 'befriended.' You guessed it, the next day they had posted pictures of themselves wearing it all on Facebook. They even had an impromptu rap about it on YouTube! Case closed! 

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