Most people do not over-share on social media about crimes they might have committed, but did you realize that the police can use your social media posts to help solve crimes? Social media is becoming a valuable tool for law enforcement. In 2013, the International Association of Chiefs of Police reported that about 96 percent of agencies surveyed were using social media.
Many law enforcement agencies are using social media to improve police-community relations. The NYPD asked Twitter users to post pictures of themselves with a police officer in New York City with hashtag #myNYPD as a way of creating an open forum of goodwill. Other agencies use social media as a way of gathering and spreading information; for example, Gloucester Township, New Jersey, has a Pinterest board for lost and found.
However, law enforcement’s most common use of social media is for criminal investigations. Police can post pictures of criminals and ask the community for assistance in finding the people responsible. Sometimes, friends and family members actually send messages to the police when someone brags about bad behavior on social media. Police and prosecutors can gather evidence of who was in the neighborhood during a crime when people check in at bars or restaurants.
The police might use your friend network to determine criminal associates. If someone tags you in a photo that demonstrates criminal activity and you “like” the photo, it could be used as evidence of your activity in the crime. There is no expectation of privacy on social media, even when you set your privacy settings to only allow your friends to see your activity.
Be careful about what you put on social media because you never know who is watching. If you are charged with a crime, deleting activity on your accounts could be another crime, such as tampering with evidence. It is a good idea to speak to an experienced defense lawyer who can give you information about your rights and the law to make sure you do not get into more trouble.