The Express-Times has an interesting story about law enforcement officials circumventing privacy settings on social networking sites in order to gather data. I have written before about how data from social networking sites are being used in criminal trials. Such information has also been used against job applicants, applicants to colleges and graduate schools, and various current employees.
Every time one of these stories is published, I feel I must reiterate: Once data is published online, it is difficult to control who sees it and how the data is used, so be careful what you reveal. The Express-Times reports:
While administrators of social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook require law enforcement officials to present them with subpoenas and court orders to obtain information, local police said that is rarely necessary.
They say the privacy settings on those sites are easy to circumvent. Colonial Regional Police Detective Gary Hammer said he generally can find a way to access the information he wants without needing a subpoena.
Hammer said in the past he has found people who are listed as friends with the suspect he is tracking so he can get around the privacy settings and view the information.
The sites may also provide information on criminal suspects that aid in investigations, Hammer said. Usually the sites can provide pictures, names of friends, aliases and hints about what the suspects have been up to, he said. […]
Northampton County Detective Barry Golazeski said law enforcement agents can also access the sites under pseudonyms to view the information they want.
“There is no law against going on those sites and pretending to be someone else,” Golazeski said.