A report by InformationWeek Government last week shows that a majority of law enforcement agencies turn to social media sites such as Facebook and Youtube as part of their investigative efforts. The survey had more than 1,200 law enforcement professionals respond and found that 83% reported using social media in the context of their investigations. And, according to the report, for those that aren't doing it, nearly 75% reported an intention to start doing so.
We already know that social media use is highly monitored and scrutinized in certain segments, such as the broker-dealer industry. There, regulators are very wary, it seems, about social media use and the ability to properly monitor its use and maintain compliance with standards relating to communications with the public. Further, we've also seen regulatory actions based on tweeting inappropriate information, along other things. And finally, we know that social media can be a gold mine in certain civil litigation, including family law and divorce matters, among other types of cases. Given these factors, folks should be aware of the high-level of scrutiny that social media postings and activity could receive, whether from criminal justice agencies in connection with criminal investigations, or by regulators reviewing compliance with civil rules and standards that apply to particular industries.
For all these reasons, folks should understand, and consider applying, some common sense tips when it comes to social media use:
* First, don't implicate yourself in criminal conduct via social media. This means don't brag about your latest crime, and don't post videos of it, on facebook, youtube, twitter, or other sites. (Of course an even better step to avoid problem is don't commit crimes in the first place).
*Second, remember the old newspaper front page test. I think that can still be a good one. If you wouldn't want your post, tweet, or whatever, appearing on the front page of the paper (yep, some folks still read an actual paper version of the newspaper), think long and hard about whether you want to post it, tweet it ot whatever.
* Finally, understand that in this day and age, things that you think are private, aren't really all that private. So tread carefully.