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Law Enforcement in Social Media

   While many still view social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter as simply a way to keep friends and acquaintances updated about day to day activities, these sites have become an increasingly powerful tool to access the “Global Friendship Network” which is an example of the “small world phenomenon.” This is the idea that everyone in the world is connected, through friends and acquaintances, to everyone else. Law enforcement all over the world has begun to utilize the worlds growing connectivity to increase the long arm of the law.

An article on by Raphael Minder, Police In Spain Arm Themselves With Social Media to Fight Crime, describes how Spanish law enforcement post Twitter alerts asking people to report sightings of wanted individuals. After issuing an arrest warrant for a couple that removed their daughter from hospital care without permission, the police in Spain were able to locate the couple within 2 hours. This was accomplished by posting an alert on Twitter.  Within three minutes of posting the alert, the police had learned that the couple’s vehicle had been spotted and were heading south. Two hours later, the police received a call from a hotel receptionist that had spotted the vehicle and the couple was detained.

I think the use of social media by law enforcement is a good strategy as it greatly increases the speed at which individuals can be found. While the search for individuals used to be limited to tedious traditional investigation techniques by law enforcement officers, now everyone around the world can assist in the search. According to the article, the department’s Twitter account has a million followers in a country with a population of 47 million. Although use of this internet strategy, as described in the article, was successful, I can see where there could be issues related to privacy and abuse if erroneous information is released by authorities.



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September 2014