Feds Use Covert Operations on Social Network Sites

By Kamika Dunlap on March 17, 2010 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Law enforcement agents are now joining social network sites like MySpace, Twitter and Facebook to plan covert operations and catch criminals.

According the Associated Press, FBI agents have created online profiles that allow them to go undercover to exchange information with suspects and gather information from popular social networking sites.

A Justice Department document outlines the ways U.S. agents use social network sites to fight crime. Investigators check suspects' alibis by comparing reports told to police with tweets sent at the same time about their whereabouts.

An example of this was seen with a New York teenager's Facebook Status alibi that saved him from facing criminal charges. As previously discussed, Rodney Bradford's status update from a computer at his father's apartment in Harlem proved he couldn't have been a robbery suspect.

In another case, police found NY fugitive Christopher Crego by his using Facebook & MySpace info, as previously discussed.

Justice Department officials say covert investigations on social-networking services are legal and governed by internal rules.

FBI agents, however, are instructed to follow the terms of service of the social networking sites, otherwise it may be viewed as illicit activity.

The Justice Department document also describes how Facebook, MySpace and Twitter have interacted with federal investigators and are "often cooperative with emergency requests."

But some social networking companies like Twitter have informed prosecutors they need a warrant or subpoena before the company turns over customer information, the document says.

Still in most cases, officials say undercover social networking operations aren't necessary if the suspect is reckless.


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