Doing Hard Time the Facebook Way

by swrba1 on April 14, 2014 - 11:37pm

In the article, Policing Social Media by Daniel Trotter from Uppsala University, Trotter goes in detail on how police are now using Facebook and social media as a way to increase their scope on policing. People give up personal details on their profiles which makes it easier for police or anybody to find an individual’s whereabouts and information. Police were able to investigate and arrest suspects from the June 2011 Vancouver riot. Following the Vancouver Canucks lost to the Boston Bruins in the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs, people went to downtown Vancouver set cars on fire and storefronts were destroyed. The city of Vancouver was outraged of what had occurred at the riot. People went to Facebook and posted photos and video evidence with the goal of someone identifying the rioters. A Facebook group named “Vancouver Riot Pics: Post Your Photos” garnered over 100,000 users, over five million views, and countless photographs in under five days. The photographs on that group lead to arrests of the individuals that committed the crime. After the arrests, Vancouver police acknowledged the help of social media throughout the riot. We are beginning to see a trend of people cooperating with people through Facebook. Police don’t need cooperation from users as all they have to do is simply search someone’s name on Facebook’s search bar. Police simply just mimic how users gather information on Facebook. A lot of the information people put on Facebook is not protected by Facebook’s privacy settings making it very easy for police to gather information on individuals. A user’s contact details, photographs, lists of friends, and wall posts are easily accessible information for police. Police are beginning to create fake Facebook accounts and give that fake account a persona. They are befriending people all for an investigational gain. This allows police not only to watch activity involving suspects but being directly involved. Despite being in violation of Facebook’s term of service police are able to get away with this.

            On page 7 of the article, it tells us a story about how in Ottawa, a Wayne Gretzky jersey was stolen from a sports apparel store. The owner was able to find the suspects using the store’s fan page on Facebook. The suspect didn’t even belong to the fan page but was identified because a friend of his was a member of the fan page. The suspect was identified not by his own Facebook but through his friends. You can’t hide from anywhere as long as have you have a Facebook profile. Social media particularly Facebook, has set up channels with police. Police can see someone’s contact information and even read a user’s private messages they engage with others in on Facebook.  It is not just police who simply benefit from social media. In 2006, a Quebec woman’s presence on Facebook showed that she was not depressed enough to receive compensation from her insurance company. Posting your political opinion on Facebook or even simply liking a controversial Facebook page can cause police to view or categorize you as a suspect or an aide to a crime. Read more about this article and about the Quebec women below.

Quebec Woman loses compensation-

Policing Social Media by Daniel Trottier-


You summarized this article very well, with lots of good details. This can be a good and bad thing for police to be this involved by creating a fake Facebook account. On one side we see police doing this in order to catch people who are potentially harmful to the public but on the other side privacy is being invaded and people who have done minor things are being caught. It is extreme to hear about this because I wasn't aware that police were doing this. I read a Montreal article similar to this one on how police caught a man because he was putting child pornography on Facebook. That's how they caught this man, by Facebook. All in all I think police should go to these extremes to find criminals, it's worth it!
Link to Article :

I really like that you integrated multiple reports of incidents in your analysis. It is true that the open environment of social media leaves minimal place for a private life nowadays.
I think investigations through public Facebook activity are normal and useful. If someone goes in a public and announce their mischief, then I don’t see why there would be a problem with a police intervention occurring following the proof. However, it is really a major concern that governments and law representatives can read private messages posted on social networks. The battle for internet surveillance and privacy is a long battle that existed before the internet became public.
I have recently read a book on this issue which actually presented quite interesting perspectives to protect our identity through online messaging. There currently exists multiple free software that are available that can encrypt messages and would make it virtually impossible for anyone reading it to decode it without the key. It is even possible to encrypt our emails to prevent them from being read by unwanted eyes. Currently, it is not illegal to use encryption, but many governments have tried in the past to implement regulation over encryption, but privacy and freedom succeeded in stopping those laws. Any average internet user can send secure and private messages using free and easily available software. However, anyone who voluntarily decides to place some information on a social networking website has to recognize that it becomes in a way public information. If someone wants to keep something private, it shouldn’t even be considered to place the information on a social network.
For anyone interested in looking to encrypt their emails, I would recommend looking up GNU Privacy Guard (GPG) on google along with your email address provider.

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