posted on Jun, 10 2008 @ 06:26 AM
I admit I was going to post anonymously, then I thought for a moment about how the credibility of that may be questioned, so I decided to use my
I don't know why nobody else from the law enforcement community has stepped up to discuss this, certainly I am not the only one who is aware of it,
so here we go....
I worked for a small suburban town police department in Massachusetts for years, leaving about two years ago for greener pastures. During at least the
last year I was there, if not then perhaps the last two years, department members took a very active role in scouring MySpace for signs that town
residents were up to, or were planning, illicit activities. You would be surprised how many people, both young and old, are dumb enough to post
references to drug use, even actual photos or artwork involving same. There were teens openly discussing underage drinking parties, some even with
photos, and one particular case that started with a resident who posed with photos of himself with firearms appearing to threated others in the
We were paid overtime to surf MySpace and look for these things. Now remember the phrase "follow the money," well according to one of the brass whom
I was good friends with, the money for our OT came from (purposefully paraphrasing here) the regional computer crime task force. Which begs the
question...where did the task force get the funds? I attended two or three task force meetings to share significant finds I had made (not related to
MySpace), and there were plenty of Feds of all kinds present, at least one from each major agency. Makes me wonder if the money for the task force,
and thus our overtime to search MySpace, came from the Feds. Typically a detective from my agency would collect the reports we generated about
MySpace, complete with a CD containing screenshots from the suspects' accounts, and forward the info to the task force. With very few exceptions that
I could certainly count on my hands, we never heard back from anyone after that, regarding what was done with that information.
MySpace gave law enforcement agencies a kind of "carte blanche" account and password which allowed us to view everything, even locked/private
profiles, deleted profiles, deleted images and text, and more. I guess that what we did with what we found was up to us; at the very least, we added
notations to our in-house computer system regarding suspected activities of town residents. Heck, if the news media could get ahold of a department's
local database, they would have a field day with the kinds of subjective and inappropriate comments in there! Sometimes people who were not already in
the database were entered and vicious commentary attached, all based on a single isolated observation on MySpace. Of course, later on some of us would
get to know some of these residents, and realize that the comments did not accurately reflect those residents, and were probably the result of a
single off-the-cuff remark posted on MySpace. I am sure anyone who has worked in town law enforcement must realize that this goes on.
Obviously the utility of the information gathered is limited in terms of legal action, unless an "immediate threat" type situation was discovered
(as happened in one town). I would say that in 90% of cases, no furthur action was taken beyond entering information into the in-house records. Like I
said, I believe it was up to us to decide what we did with what we found, but the detectives would dutifully share it with the task force nonetheless.
There is no way we were the only town in the USA doing this, in fact I know at least two other towns in Massachusetts that used paid police department
employees to go onto MySpace and gather information on residents. I am frankly surprised that this is the first I have heard about it on ATS, it seems
we have people from all walks of life here and someone would have said something by now.