Using Social Media to Fight Crime- is it privacy invasion?

18Mar10

Three months ago the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed a suit in San Francisco to obtain information about the government’s use of social media. They were concerned about issues of privacy. They must’ve won because I just came across this article stating information that the EFF received. It’s perfect timing as well because Maxi Sopo was just arrested by the FBI for bank fraud and was aided in the arrest by Facebook.

A month ago, the FBI was pressing for browsing information retention and computer crimes investigators want the info too. They want to know location and the sites visited. But is this pushing into privacy issues and becoming too Big Brotherish? Is it even technologically feasible?

In the meantime, there are some ways in which law enforcements is already actively using social media for investigation, communication and prevention tactics—activity such as  blotter blogs, digital wanted posters, e-tipping, social media stakeouts, friending gangs and monitoring twitter.

All of these spy-like tactics must be working. Already, Italian authorities have captured a mafia suspect using Facebook. A robber in Pennsylvania was arrested after updating his status inside victim’s house and a UK man taunting police on Facebook was arrested by Scotland Yard.

While all this seems to be great, is is a step too far? Does this cross the privacy boundary and is government nosing too much? Some sites like Twitter will not give information until legally required, while Facebook seems to cooperate if they situation is a life or death emergency.

Some might say that if you aren’t doing anything wrong, then you have nothing to hide, but should we be granted “personal” space offline and online? What do you think?

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