Here’s a big “duh!” moment for local police – Watch what you do online! It’s no secret that law enforcement officials have turned to social media to “investigate” crimes. As long as criminals are stupid enough to plan their crimes on Facebook, Twitter, or wherever it is that they share such intimacies, police will continue to monitor social networking sites – however blurry the lines between right-to-privacy and ability to effectively investigate crime.
FastCompany reports that in a recent memo to local police departments, the FBI urged the continued use of mining Facebook and Twitter updates for leads in criminal investigations. They also made sure to issue a reminder: Watch what you say! The FBI released along with its bulletin a few dos and don’ts about officers social media presence; among them are the following:
[quote]Government entities can restrict the speech of their employees under certain circumstances, such as if the expression interferes with or compromises the mission of the department or brings into question the professionalism of the officers or the agency.17 Social media policy should clearly delineate between protected free expression and the speech that could impact departments or officers…. Administrators must decide the conduct and information to regulate.
- Photos or videos of officers, suspects, evidence, police facilities, equipment, uniforms, or weapons
- Employment, job assignment, work hours, or other related information
- Public or nonpublic information regarding police reports, criminal history, arrests, or calls for police service
- Profanity or unprofessional language and harmful images
- Derogatory comments or images about superiors or coworkers
- Work-related matters or other named officers in posts, blogs, or microblogs
- Personal social media activities while on duty and with agency resources
- Allowance by officers of the content of their social networking sites to be viewed by administrators during the course of an internal investigation[/quote]
Although many fears of Big Brother watching seem to be relegated to wiretapping and surveillance drones/cameras, the truth is that surveillance starts relatively low-tech – and they too are afraid of who might be watching them.