Previously, we heard stories about law enforcement officials using Facebook and other social networking sites to track down criminals or gather evidence. The latest story comes from the Washington Post, which reports that “campus police are scanning their Facebook and MySpace pages for tips to help break up fights, monitor gangs and thwart crime in what amounts to a new cyberbeat.”
Note that privacy settings are important: “Police don’t have special privileges on Facebook or MySpace. Students who want to go unobserved can change privacy settings so that their profiles are displayed only to a list of approved people. But the default settings leave those profiles open to many Internet users (in the case of Facebook) or all of them (in the case of MySpace).” Here’s an article on how to change your settings for more privacy on LinkedIn and one on Facebook.
Increasingly, people are learning that it is difficult to control what happens to your data once it is published online. Even “private” Facebook profiles are at risk of perusal by someone you might not want to give access. Recently, there was a Canadian case, Leduc v. Roman, in which “the Ontario Superior Court of Justice made an order permitting the defendant to cross-examine a plaintiff in a motor vehicle accident suit […] regarding the kind of content he posted on his private Facebook profile.” For more, here’s my previous post on a point-counterpoint debate about social networking sites and privacy.