Although 2016 was an incredibly Orwellian year for Facebook—from the arbitration of “fake news” to the continued violations of your privacy—things have actually gotten even worse.
In a move that takes “pre-crime” to a whole new level, police departments around the nation are urging and training their officers to create fake Facebook accounts as a means of gathering intel on suspects or future possible crimes.
“As the streets of East Harlem had moved to the social Web, the police donned digital masks and followed. They tapped into Twitter and Facebook posing as members of the community. The day of the cookout, officers picked up the neighborhood kids for questioning. They asked them about their posts to Facebook. They asked who their friends were.”
The creation of fake profiles on Facebook is against the site’s policy. However, being “above the law” is nothing new for some law enforcement agencies with a history of Constitutional violations.
No matter your position on this topic, one thing is very clear: utilizing social media to catch criminals can be very effective.
According to one police officer’s response to a LexisNexis survey, he “was looking for a suspect related to drug charges for over a month. When I looked him up on Facebook and requested him as a friend from a fictitious profile, he accepted,” because “he kept ‘checking in’ everywhere he went, so I was able to track him down very easily.”
The ways in which social media can be used to extract information about potential suspects and crimes are seemingly endless.
The New York Times reported that some officers deliberately use profile photos of attractive women to increase the likelihood that friend requests are accepted by potential suspects.
Although there are some ways to identify a fake Facebook account, such as no status updates later than a few weeks old, or having few friends, there is ultimately no way to be 100% certain that you’re interacting with an undercover cop.