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Hot on the trail with MySpace

Hot on the trail with MySpace

Newsweek highlights the use of MySpace in law enforcement investigations:

As far as Jennifer Joffe was concerned, the party started the night of Feb. 23, when she let four friends raid the liquor cabinet of her mother’s Boulder, Colo., mansion’€”and it ended when she stumbled up to bed. But the next morning it was clear that Joffe, 18, had missed some revelry. Mirrors were shattered. Walls were spattered with blood. Police say $40,000 worth of property was gone. And Joffe was certain that she’d been sexually assaulted (Joffe is a pseudonym; NEWSWEEK does not name sexual-assault victims). What she didn’t know, however, was who was responsible for the rampage’€”and, without other witnesses, neither did Detective Ali Bartley. Until she spotted MySpace.com on Joffe’s PC. “It was like a Pandora’s box,” says Bartley, who spent the next few days monitoring Joffe’s online network of “friends” (and friends of friends) and assembling a “police lineup” of suspects from the portrait photos displayed on their profiles. By March 14, Bartley had arrested six young men’€”two of the original partygoers, plus four friends they invited over while Joffe slept’€”in connection with the crimes.

This sort of use of an online database or social networking service is not unusual for criminal investigations. It represents the natural growth and evolution of the tools available to law enforcement.

Prior to the internet, investigators would use college yearbooks, bulletin board postings, alumni newsletters, and other tools in order to locate fugitives, identify suspects, and close cases. Today, they use the power of the subpoena to obtain online records from Yahoo, Google, MSN Hotmail, Facebook, MySpace, Blogger, Typepad, or any number of other online services – including your ISP.

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These tools have proven highly effective in investigating violations of the CAN-SPAM Act and Phishing crimes -often leading police or private investigators to the source of their problem. Blogs are no different – and I expect the use of our medium as a law enforcement tool to grow over time.

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