Are your Facebook friends ratting you out?

Don't look now, but the coppers may be leaning on your friends to reveal your Facebook info to them -- with the court's approval.

One of the most maddening things about Facebook is that regardless of how careful you are about building up walls around your personal information, they can come tumbling down in an instant thanks to overly sharing friends with a poor sense of personal boundaries.

This is especially true if you happen to run an alleged crime syndicate and one of your gangsta friends has rolled over for the Feds.

Such is the case with a Bronx gentleman who goes by the Facebook handle of Mellymel Balla (but whose real name is the decidedly less musical Melvin Colon).

Apparently the Feds got the 411 on MellyMel via one of his Facebook friends, who has allowed the cops to use his account to view Melly’s profile. Colon’s attorneys sued, claiming that this was an unlawful search under the Fourth Amendment. Unfortunately for Melly, the judge in that case did not click the Like button.

Per GigaOm:

US District Judge William Pauley III ruled that accused gangster Melvin Colon can’t rely on the Fourth Amendment to suppress Facebook evidence that led to his indictment. … The informant’s Facebook friendship served to open an online window onto Colon’s alleged gangster life, revealing messages he posted about violent acts and threats to rival gang members. The government used this information to obtain a search warrant for the rest of Colon’s Facebook account.

This should not be terribly surprising to anyone. As GigaOm’s Jeff John Roberts points out, the cops can also listen in on your phone calls, if the person you’re calling gives them permission. He adds:

Ironically, Colon’s current account suggests that the government’s ability to peruse Facebook profiles may have become even easier since the introduction of the Facebook Timeline. The feature can in some cases reveal past events and status updates to the public unless a user changes his or her privacy settings.

Strangely, MellyMel’s Facebook account now appears to be open to the general public. (Once the Feds have you nailed, what’s left to lose?) Scanning it I find no evidence of obvious criminal activity, unless you consider excessive use of the ‘N’ word is a crime.

Still, this story is yet another reason to choose your friends and/or partners in crime carefully, and to make your preferences (like, TagMeNot) crystal clear.

Got a question about social media? TY4NS blogger Dan Tynan may have the answer (and if not, he’ll make something up). Visit his snarky, occasionally NSFW blog eSarcasm or follow him on Twitter: @tynanwrites. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-to’s, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

Now read this:

Facebook's 'man in the middle' attack on our data

Making Facebook private won't protect you

How to keep hackers out of your Google, Facebook, and Twitter accounts

What’s wrong? The new clean desk test
Join the discussion
Be the first to comment on this article. Our Commenting Policies