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View Full Version : When tweets can make you a jailbird


mscriv
Mar 17, 2010, 09:22 AM
WASHINGTON Maxi Sopo was having so much fun "living in paradise" in Mexico that he posted about it on Facebook so all his friends could follow his adventures. Others were watching, too: A federal prosecutor in Seattle, where Sopo was wanted on bank fraud charges. Tracking Sopo through his public "friends" list, the prosecutor found his address and had Mexican authorities arrest him. Instead of sipping pina coladas, Sopo is awaiting extradition to the U.S. Sopo learned the hard way: The Feds are on Facebook. And MySpace, LinkedIn and Twitter, too.

Law enforcement agents are following the rest of the Internet world into popular social-networking services, even going undercover with false online profiles to communicate with suspects and gather private information, according to an internal Justice Department document that surfaced in a lawsuit. The document shows that U.S. agents are logging on surreptitiously to exchange messages with suspects, identify a target's friends or relatives and browse private information such as postings, personal photographs and video clips.

Among the purposes: Investigators can check suspects' alibis by comparing stories told to police with tweets sent at the same time about their whereabouts. Online photos from a suspicious spending spree people posing with jewelry, guns or fancy cars can link suspects or their friends to crime. The Justice document also reminds government attorneys taking cases to trial that the public sections of social networks are a "valuable source" of information on defense witnesses. "Knowledge is power," says the paper. "Research all witnesses on social networking sites." The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco-based civil liberties group, obtained the 33-page document when it sued the Justice Department and five other agencies in federal court.

A decade ago, agents kept watch over AOL and MSN chat rooms to nab sexual predators. But those text-only chat services are old-school compared with today's social media, which contain a potential treasure trove of evidence. The document, part of a presentation given in August by cybercrime officials, describes the value of Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, LinkedIn and other services to investigators. It does not describe in detail the boundaries for using them.

"It doesn't really discuss any mechanisms for accountability or ensuring that government agents use those tools responsibly," said Marcia Hoffman, a senior attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which sued to force the government to disclose its policies for using social networking. The foundation also obtained an Internal Revenue Service document that states IRS employees cannot use deception or create fake accounts to get information.

Sopo's case didn't require undercover work; his carelessness provided the clues. But covert investigations on social-networking services are legal and governed by internal rules, according to Justice officials. They would not, however, say what those rules are.

Full Story (http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/us_feds_on_facebook)

Kinda scary...

notjustjay
Mar 17, 2010, 09:31 AM
Kinda scary...

Well, that's what privacy settings are for. Honestly though, I don't see it as scary so much as stupidity on the behalf of the criminals. Of course posting anything public connecting yourself to a crime you committed is a bad idea. If the police weren't actively searching the site, all it would take is a scheming or jealous partner or a whistleblower to forward the picture and you're still done for.

I have a friend who had a vanity license plate stolen from his car a number of years ago. He was upset, but he didn't think much of it -- there's no way to trace a theft like that -- until a couple of years later when someone directed him to a photo sharing site featuring two drunk looking university students posing with his plate. He was able to find out how to contact them and got his plate back.

I think the real fears with social networking are what regular people are now capable of doing in terms of cyber-stalking and cyber-bullying. At least the police set rules for themselves on what they can and can't do. Kids and jealous ex'es don't.

FSMBP
Mar 17, 2010, 10:18 AM
Well, that's what privacy settings are for. Honestly though, I don't see it as scary so much as stupidity on the behalf of the criminals. Of course posting anything public connecting yourself to a crime you committed is a bad idea. If the police weren't actively searching the site, all it would take is a scheming or jealous partner or a whistleblower to forward the picture and you're still done for.

I have a friend who had a vanity license plate stolen from his car a number of years ago. He was upset, but he didn't think much of it -- there's no way to trace a theft like that -- until a couple of years later when someone directed him to a photo sharing site featuring two drunk looking university students posing with his plate. He was able to find out how to contact them and got his plate back.

I think the real fears with social networking are what regular people are now capable of doing in terms of cyber-stalking and cyber-bullying. At least the police set rules for themselves on what they can and can't do. Kids and jealous ex'es don't.

Well said.

It amazes me when criminals brag about what they done and it gets them caught (in regards to other Facebook cases).

MacDawg
Mar 17, 2010, 10:29 AM
Social networking sites, whether MySpace, Facebook, Twitter or whatever, tend to bring out the worst in attention whores.

But don't kid yourself, law enforcement isn't the only one following you. Employers, potential employers, college officials, school authorities, parents, neighbors, et. al. are watching and listening too.

instaxgirl
Mar 17, 2010, 10:30 AM
Full Story (http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/us_feds_on_facebook)

Kinda scary...

Only if

1. You're in trouble with the authorities :p

and 2. You put your life online.

I'm more worried by the fact that I've read reports of employers searching for people on Facebook etc. All they're going to see of me is a photo and the option to friend me or send me a message.

I deliberately don't put my life online, which is weird given that I'm on forums and twitter and therefore, kind of an active online presence.

Facebook's the only one with my real name attached though, and there's nothing about my life on there for people to read. No pictures, no (public) comments. It's just a glorified email account.

eawmp1
Mar 17, 2010, 10:34 AM
I deliberately don't put my life online

Which makes you smarter than 99% of others on social network sites.

MattSepeta
Mar 26, 2010, 03:22 PM
Social networking sites, whether MySpace, Facebook, Twitter or whatever, tend to bring out the worst in attention whores.

But don't kid yourself, law enforcement isn't the only one following you. Employers, potential employers, college officials, school authorities, parents, neighbors, et. al. are watching and listening too.

Most of my college aged friends have changed their facebook name to a different moniker. For example, "Tom Jones" would be changed to something humorous, like "Blademaster Tom" or something.

This is a big reason I stopped using facebook.