SACRAMENTO - It's a controversial, but effective practice: Police officers creating fake social media accounts so they can "friend" people suspected of crimes. Once the two become online friends, police sit back and wait for those suspects to start posting evidence of their crimes.
According to an article posted by CNN, Facebook is not totally supportive of this practice because it's against their policy for anyone to create fake profiles. However, it's not against the law and it happens everyday. Facebook also typically cooperates with law enforcement when evidence is needed from someone's account for a case.
CNN goes on to say that Twitter seems to be more resistant to handing over such evidence without a subpoena. It also appears to be very protective of user privacy - even when it comes to criminal cases.
Whether it's something small like vandalism, or a violent crime - even murder, there are more cases popping up of investigators busting criminals solely based on what they post or message on Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, or even upload to YouTube.
The Sacramento County Sheriff's Department is one agency in particular that utilizes this technique of having officers create fake user profiles and friend people suspected of crimes. Spokesman Deputy Jason Ramos says it has yielded very fruitful results and is looked at as a valuable tool. He did not want to go into details about exactly how they use social media to their advantage so that investigations are not compromised, and he could not say if the department has received any pushback from social media sites including Facebook and Myspace.
A spokesman for the Sacramento Police Department said as a general rule, they don't discuss methods or techniques used for their investigations.
However, officers all over the country are using social media to their advantage.
A recent survey of more than 1,200 federal, state, and local law enforcement officials found that four out of five of those officers surveyed used social media to gather intelligence during investigations.
Some of those arrested actually posted video evidence of their crimes on YouTube.
Some criminals have argued this tactic violates their Fourth Amendment rights and have tried to make that case in court. But so far it hasn't held up, because technically, what one posts on social media is made public.