Social Media Use by Law Enforcement

As if you needed any further reason to be super careful about what you say and do on any publicly viewable website (sexting is out), the EFF has released some documents that show how law enforcement and other governmental agencies are trained to use social media sites like Facebook and Google Street View to research and investigate people.  And before you get your dander up, it’s all very legal, because all of the information that they are using is publicly available.

The IRS should be commended for its detailed training that clearly prohibits employees from using deception or fake social networking accounts to obtain information. Its policies generally limit employees to using publicly available information. The good example set by the IRS is in stark contrast to the U.S. Marshalls and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Neither organization found any documents on social networking sites in response to EFF’s request suggesting they do not have any written policies or restrictions upon the use of these websites.

So, if you’re going to do something that is possibly illegal, it’s best if you kept your mouth shut about it on social media sites.  Explaining how you exploited a loophole and “found” an extra $10,000 tax return is likely not a very good idea in the first place.  Now, we know Big Brother is watching.