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Patrolling Myspace

How do cops use social networking sites to catch criminals?

When I first built a Myspace page, I never imagined how much time I would waste agonizing over my “top friends” and fielding “friend” requests from local bands, people who went to my elementary school and every weirdo with a keyboard. It’s hard to identify the person behind the profile, and I can honestly say that I have no idea who has access to the personal information I’ve put out. That’s one reason I’m pretty careful about what kinds of details I post. But it never really occurred to me that some of my “friends” might be police officers.

More and more, detectives are using social networking sites such as Myspace, Facebook and Friendster to find key information that can lead to arrests and help build cases against suspects in custody. Sometimes they are transparent about this, and sometimes they’re not. In fact Dan Kraus, a homicide and violent crimes detective for Clackamas County and a guest for the hour, is actually teaching his fellow cops how to better use social networking sites for investigative work. But there are plenty of examples, including some closer to home.

Fortunately, none of this really applies to my page — at least not yet! — but it did get me thinking about how I choose to present myself online.

What about you? Do you have an online profile? How do you embellish or censor yourself? Do you really know who all of your online friends are? Do you already write everything with an awareness of possible law enforcement interest? Are you going to start?

Photo credit: thespacesuitcatalyst / Flickr / Creative Commons


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