Police have started to track individuals on social media. Both Google and Twitter have released reports on police requests for user data, showing just how often police track suspects. Why are police tracking more people online and what exactly are they looking for?
When police request user data from online social media sites, they sometimes are required to have a warrant. However, many times police are able to request user data with a subpoena, which doesn't require a judge's approval.
Since it is relatively simple for police to access user data, more police are tracking online data of possible suspects. So, what are they trying to find?
Police are usually looking for evidence of a crime that can lead to an arrest or help make a case against someone already facing criminal charges. Online users should be aware that even though they set their posts to "private," police will still be able to access those once they gain access through a warrant or subpoena.
Reports show that police are most often looking for evidence of criminal activity. Things they are looking for include:
- Nicknames or aliases to see if you are linked to a crime by another name.
- Location of where you posted or logged in to a site can help police determine where you were at a given time.
- Contact information can be obtained, including email addresses and phone numbers possibly linked to a crime.
- Associates or people that you may know that are involved in a criminal investigation.
While Facebook and Twitter are more commonly searched by police, they are also searching several other online accounts that an individual is linked to during an investigation. People should be aware of the way their online accounts may be searched by the police, especially if they have been arrested or charged with a crime.
Individuals who are facing criminal charges should consult a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. An attorney can help protect an individual's rights and help protect their personal freedom.
Source: FindLaw Blotter, "Why Are Cops Asking for Twitter, Google User Data?" Deanne Katz, Feb. 1, 2013
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