The New York Police Department has released a memo that has stated the rules for police officers using social media during investigations.
Christopher Dunn, an associate legal director for the New York Civil Liberties Union said, “Electronic undercover work is fine, but we worry about the ease with the police can use deceit on the Internet to monitor private communications. Police infiltration of social media should be closely regulated.”
The memo was released shortly before the arrest of 49 East New York gang members for murder, attempted murder and conspiracy after using Facebook to threaten and intimidate each other. Commissioner Kelly said, “Detectives used social media as well as good old fashioned police work to track these killers. I want to commend District Attorney Hynes and his team for their outstanding work and partnership in bringing these dangerous suspects to justice.”
However, the issue of privacy has been questioned by a number of sources asking whether it is right that the police are allowed to troll the internet under an alias while members of the public using social media must give their real name when registering.
It will always be debated how much access to information the police should have and how much privacy they are allowed whilst using social media to try and gain information that could potentially prevent crimes from happening in the first place.
Is it right that the police can look in on an innocent person’s profiles and information in the hope that it will lead them to a criminal? Personally, I think so. Of course none of us want to have our private information read by total strangers, but it is done with the right intentions. There is a huge difference between hacking and investigating. Primarily, the police aren’t doing this to make a profit, they’re doing it to try and keep the state safe.
I would be perfectly happy if the police announced that they would be following similar measures in the UK. Not only because I’m very sure that the people I’m friends on Facebook with are good, law abiding citizens, but also because if it did end with a criminal being found and prosecuted it may have saved someone, possibly myself, from a nasty traumatic encounter. People will counter this by saying that the police are doing this to scaremonger, but shouldn’t we always fear crime? Shouldn’t we always be alert to this sort of danger? I think so.