It’s the golden rule of Facebook (and every other social network): If you don’t want your online activity to come back and bite you in the assets, don’t post anything you wouldn’t want your grandmother to see. And if grandma wears a badge and carries a gun, that rule goes double.
A story in Wednesday’s New York Times adds more teeth to that truism. When investigating a crime, Facebook and Twitter are often the first places the cops look.
When 18-year-old Kayla Henriques fatally stabbed her 22-year-old BFF Kamisha Richards in the chest over a $20 loan, NYC police didn’t have to look very hard for motive. It was all there in a message string on Facebook.
[ See also: Meet your new Facebook friend: Johnny Law ]
The classic example, also noted by the Times: In January 2009, when none-too-bright bank robber Joseph Wade Northington posted the following update to MySpace:
"One in the head still ain't dead!!!!!! On tha run for robbin a bank Love all of yall."
Worthington was arrested nine days later and charged with robbing the Security Federal Bank in North August, South Carolina. His current status: Doing 7 years federal time for using a firearm during a crime of violence.
Here’s a clue: If you are in the midst of committing a felony, you may not want to tweet about it or update your status to reflect that. Just a thought.
As I’ve noted before, Facebook is a trove of information for any three-letter agency with an interest in you or your friends. There are dozens of other examples of criminals who’ve been unearthed because they couldn’t keep their traps shut online – like Mafia don Pasquale Manfredi, who got nabbed by Italian police last March thanks to his Facebook chatter, or escaped convict Craig ‘Lazie’ Lynch, who taunted UK police by posting mocking mugshots of his newly liberated self on Facebook. He got caught in January 2010 after four months on the run.
Even if you’re not a criminal – or just criminally stupid – your Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace posts will likely be used to determine whether you belong on a jury, qualify for alimony, or are considered a fit parent in a custody proceeding. This is not theoretical; it’s now a standard part of the discovery process. Call it Law and Order: Geek Squad.
Social networks should come with their own Miranda warning: What you say on Facebook (Twitter, MySpace, etc) can and will be used against you in a court of law.
Remember that, the next time you’re tempted to post those wild photos after a long night at Margaritaville or, say, you’ve robbed a liquor store.
ITworld TY4NS blogger Dan Tynan has a perfectly good alibi when that thing went down the other night, just give him a minute. The rest of you who aren't law enforcement officials can track his whereabouts via eSarcasm (Geek Humor Gone Wild) or follow him on Twitter:@tynan_on_tech.