How Law Enforcement Agencies use Social Media

In this day and age being an accomplice is as easy as “liking” something. The police and other law enforcement agencies are cracking down on suspects using social media. So the next time you have a conversation with a shady friend, or maybe you’re a hooligan that does the crime committing you should probably keep it offline.

Let’s go over a couple social media outlets:

We all learned in class that our very own Denton Police Department if using Twitter as a crime deterrent. Denton P.D. tweets mug shots of the people they’ve arrested. Including, the date, time, offense, and age of the suspect.

Follow them @DentonPolice

In a recent article by CNN they talk about how one New York City gang member lost his privacy rights when he shared details on previous crimes and threats against others on Facebook. Here is the debate:


“Debating the Fourth Amendment

In the case of Colon, the alleged gang member, his attorneys claimed his Facebook posts were protected under the Fourth Amendment, which shields people’s homes and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures. But a federal judge disagreed, saying Colon forfeited any expectation of privacy when he shared online postings with friends.

In other words, the online world is just like the offline world in many respects: Your friends can inform on you to police, and detectives can go undercover to catch you in the act.

Users don’t have Fourth Amendment protection rights when they store information with a third party, such as a website, legal experts said. But Fakhoury and civil-liberties groups such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation want to challenge the idea that people have no right to privacy for information stored online, especially when it comes to location data. (Even when a post or photo doesn’t include public location information, the social network can track its location by seeing the IP address from which it was shared.)

The Electronic Frontier Foundation also would like to see more social networks stand up for their users when law enforcement requests information. The foundation is trying to educate the public about how information can be viewed and obtained.

“People post without realizing the consequences, and any change to preserve privacy has to start with greater awareness by users,” Fakhoury said.”


CNN goes on to say that police often create fake online accounts to befriend these suspects so that they can view their private information. They can also go the legal route and request subpoenas and warrants if they think there’s imminent danger.

Policy Violations:

Universities have begun using Facebook to investigate underage drinking and violations of dry campus policies. Students that post pictures of underage drinking behavior, or being affiliated with drinking-related groups are being looked into.


Police are using Facebook to help stop and end cyber-bullying. With the help of a teenage informant and volunteer the authorities will go through Facebook pages to investigate instances of cyber-bullying.

Police departments post and reach out to their community for support.

Here is a YouTube video from a Denver news station from 2007 about how law enforcement uses YouTube to catch crooks.



Even MySpace has been used. In February of 2006, a 16-year old Colorado boy was arrested for juvenile possession of a firearm after posting pictures on MySpace of himself posing with rifles and handguns.


Various social media outlets are being used 24/7 to help catch criminals. A recent survey was done to shed some light on law enforcement using social media.

According to a LexisNexis® Risk Solutions survey of 1,200 Federal, State, and Local Law Enforcement professionals

  • 4 of 5 agencies use various social media to assist in investigations (Facebook & YouTube more so)
  • 67% believe social media helps solve crimes quickly
  • 87% of the time, search warrants utilizing social media to establish probably cause hold up in court when challenged
  • Close to 50% of respondents use social media weekly
  • Only 10% learned how to use social media for investigations through formal training given at the agency.


How does this make you feel?

Do you think law enforcement agencies have the right to peer into our social media sites?

Let me know in the comment section below.

Post by Michael Dobbins.


One thought on “How Law Enforcement Agencies use Social Media

  1. I honestly would have to say that I have no problem with law enforcement utilizing social media and the Internet to capture people red handed and prosecute them. Date line’s to catch a predator is a perfect example of police integrating the technology of social media into their sting operations. The Internet might be a digital space, but it is still a public digital space with respect to social networking sites, chat rooms, etc. Individuals who are unfamiliar with the technology of the Internet think they can hide behind an alias screen name without being traced or discovered. Anything you post online is your responsibility, and since it is public then anyone has the right to read, share, follow and question it. Cyber bullying is another serious issue affecting young teenagers; the law enforcement ‘s movement towards this digital tactic is not a threat to any ones privacy in my opinion. I don’t believe the police have any intentions of wasting their man-hours and resources probing emails, phone records and social site posts of average citizens. Just as in any other police operation, they acts on tips, clues, sting operations and court approvals through justified probable cause. The certified formal training in utilizing social media tools does not make sense to me, with all do respect to social media experts, utilizing social media is no more complicated than having a face to face conversation.

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