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Tuesday, 5th January 2016

Social Media Surveillance and Law Enforcement

Source: Data & Civil Rights

From the Introduction:

Law enforcement monitoring of social media is a widespread and growing practice. In 2014, a vendor’s online survey of more than 1,200 federal, state, and local law enforcement professionals found that approximately 80 percent used social media platforms as intelligence gathering tools.

The adoption of these new tools may not come as a surprise given their low cost compared to other forms of surveillance. But their adoption also reflects a broader trend: law enforcement’s response to public pressure to investigate crimes online. For example, after a number of highly publicized violent attacks — from the Boston Marathon bombing, to the killing of churchgoers in Charleston, to mass shootings on school campuses – journalists have unearthed social media profiles full of warning signs: posts about hate, weapons, and more. Those discoveries have contributed to mounting pressure on law enforcement to do more to identify potential offenders before they act.

And there are some successes: social media data has helped law enforcement solve murder cases where perpetrators boast of their crimes online, detect potential human trafficking activity, as well as more mundane crimes such as car thefts.

But certain law enforcement uses of social media have raised questions. Debates so far have focused on instances where law enforcement have used social media tools to monitor peaceful protests, assembled potentially innocuous social media activity as evidence for criminal conspiracy charges, or created fake profiles or impersonated individuals online.

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Having begun his career in academic libraries, Adrian Janes has subsequently worked extensively in public libraries, chiefly in enquiry work as an Information Services librarian. In this role he has had particular responsibility for information from both the UK Government and the European Union. He wrote a detailed report on sources for the latter which was published by FreePint in 2007, and has contributed articles to FreePint and ResourceShelf. He is involved in training in information literacy and the use of online reference resources.

A Contributing Editor to DocuTicker, he also write reviews for Pennyblackmusic.

More articles by Adrian Janes »

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