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Law Enforcement’s Use of Social Media: User Beware

On Behalf of | Sep 2, 2014 | Advice

For many people, especially those of certain age, life is lived in the social media spotlight. Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram have become the popular way to communicate. Ordinary citizens are not the only people who use social media. User beware: If your friends can see your posting, so can law enforcement. A recent survey of agencies throughout the country found that over 80% of those agencies use social media in their criminal investigations. Lawyers also routinely use it to discover evidence about litigants, witnesses and even jurors.

When information is posted on public websites for all to see, the person posting that information has lost his or her ability to argue the information should be private and, in some instances, has lost the right to argue disclosure of such information violates the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Likewise, it is not uncommon to see information found on social media used to impeach witnesses at trial. Further, child custody battles have been won (and lost) as the result of information found on the internet.

The best way to protect yourself is to understand that using social media to disclose private information makes that information not private. Serious criminal prosecutions, such as the rape of a 16 year old by fellow schoolmates in Ohio, were successful because the alleged assailants posted pictures and comments on their Facebook pages. Think before you post.