Since the beginning of social media, a variety of conspiracy theories has emerged indicating that people feel as though they are being watched more than ever before. However, what if I told you there was actually quite a bit of truth behind those conspiracies, so much so, that you probably wouldn’t believe it.
A variety of news stories has recently come to the surface stating that you may need to be careful who you consider your friends, especially on Facebook. How many of us have opened up our favorite social media forum, only to notice we had a friend request from some person we have never met, never heard of, and never knew existed?
While it may seem innocent enough, there is a high chance that at least some of your random friend requests could be from federal agents or even local police authorities. Of course, they won’t come out and tell you upfront that they are an agent. Instead, it is likely that they are using a fake profile built purely to investigate citizens of interest.
CBS News reported that a document which had been accessed through the Freedom of Information Act lawsuit shows how U.S agents are using Facebook to engage suspects through messages. Furthermore, they then use your list of friends, once they have made contact with you, to probe other information. They also use information that shows up in your feed including your photographs, posts, videos, etc.
Officials are also using Facebook and Twitter users posts to compare them with alibis if they are associated with a case to compare their posts with their supposed whereabouts.
And unfortunately, it isn’t just the feds that are utilizing social media in this manner either. The Los Angeles Police Department approved guidelines that allowed them to enhance their own spying operations. According to the recent guideline change, undercover officers can “friend” you on Facebook and then hang around in the background, watching what you and your friends are doing.
While this may seem invasive to some, considering the type of content that is posted through Facebook, Twitter, etc., a federal judge has maintained that law enforcement can use fake social network profiles in order to obtain information about suspects. United States District Judge William Martini had denied the motion of a defendant that asked for evidence to be suppressed that had been collected from his Instagram account.
Basically, despite the defendant’s insistence that officers needed a search warrant, the judge ruled against that notion stating that it wasn’t necessary due to the information being collected from a social media outlet.
What’s most concerning about this, is the fact that most people feel comfortable posting almost anything to social media. Think about it, many of us check in when we arrive to various places, including the homes of our friends and relatives, then we take piles of pictures of what takes place while we are there, and then we write a three sentence paragraph of what we were there for. And while officers have admitted to using such tactics only on ‘suspects’, where is the line drawn in the proverbial sand? Could they access any bit of information on anyone, and then claim that it was out there for the taking, no warrant necessary?
Thankfully, there is a way to shield your personal information.
First, make all of your profiles completely private. Also, make sure that you don’t have any shady people hanging around on your friend’s list that you have never met in real life. It’s also important to understand that not every aspect of your personal life should be placed out onto the internet for the taking. And just to be sure, create a strong password that would be impossible to crack. As technology is increasing with each passing day, we must remain vigilant in protecting our privacy if we truly cherish it.