- Post 20 August 2012
- By Copy Editor
Did you know that what you say on Facebook can be used against you in a court of law? If you’re sharing something with your friends, you may as well be sharing directly with the judge and jury: A recent ruling in a U.S. federal court says that if you post something on Facebook, your friend can share that information with the police — it’s not a violation of your privacy.
Accused gang member Melvin Colon had argued in court that investigators violated his constitutional right to privacy when they viewed his Facebook profile via one of his friends’ accounts. But US District Judge William Pauley III ruled that Colon’s messaged threats and posts about violent acts he committed were not private, and indeed fair game for prosecutors. To some extent, the ruling makes logical sense: When you say something publicly on Facebook, you’re often sharing a thought with hundreds, maybe even thousands of people. There’s not much that’s private about that.
No, there’s not, what you post on Facebook, or Twitter, or any other social networking site is considered publicly disseminated for the purposes of the law even if you have restricted access to your account to only a select group of people. It’s the same situation, essentially, as if you were having a conversation with a group of your friends in your home and one of those friends went to the police and reported that you confessed to a crime. In this particular case, it appears that what happened is that the police had obtained the cooperation of one of Colon’s co-conspirators in the case at hand, who also happened to be on of his Facebook friends and, as part of convincing that person to become a cooperating witness (no doubt in exchange for lower charges or a lighter sentence as is common in these situations) they required him to let the police use his Facebook account to see what Colon was posting. When they saw that Colon was posting about the acts he’d committed in the case at issue, along with other violent acts, they applied for a Search Warrant to be served on Facebook, with the probable cause being what they had seen during the course of their investigation. ... continues...