With Facebook’s new Graph Search, I can search for people employed by the New Orleans Police Department. How many results would I get? Hundreds and hundreds. I can search for New Orleans Police Department employees who live in Metairie. I can search for New Orleans Police Department employees who graduated from Brother Martin High School. There is a lot of information on Facebook.
There are people who would advocate that law enforcement officers should immediately deactivate their Facebook profile if you have one or continue to stay away if you do not. While I do not necessarily share the same extreme views, there is merit to this position. If you enjoy Facebook or want to enjoy Facebook, you should do it. Keep in mind the expanse of information contained therein. This advice is really for everyone: If you have a Facebook account or are thinking about creating one, familiarize yourself with the privacy options. But know that there is someone who can get to your data even if you employ the most severe privacy settings.
A couple of quick observations:
In the early morning hours of February 23, 2013, Police Officer John Passaro of the New
Orleans Police Department was shot in the line of duty. At 8:13 p.m. on February 23, 2013 a story appeared on NOLA.COM titled “Shooting of NOPD Officer Reminds Local Law Enforcement of Dangers They Face Daily.” The title of the article is certainly a true statement. The final six paragraphs of the article came directly from Officer Passaro’s Facebook page. Fortunately, the reporter was not looking to blast Officer Passaro and Officer Passaro’s Facebook page was not full of statements which could be taken out of context or used to embarrass him or his family. I am sure you all know someone who would not be as lucky if their Facebook page was published in the newspaper.
In Virginia, six employees of the Hampton Sheriff’s Office were fired for supporting the incumbent Sheriff’s opponent. One of those employees was fired because he clicked Like on the candidate’s Facebook page. In Graph Search, I can search for New Orleans Police Department employees who like Bobby Jindal. This case (Bland v. Roberts) is currently on appeal in Virginia, but the district court held that clicking like was insufficient speech to merit constitutional protection.
In Steubenville, Ohio, several high school football players were accused of raping a 16-year-old girl at a party pictures and videos were uploaded to Facebook. These pictures were deleted shortly after they were posted. Football is very big in Ohio and there were allegations of a cover up because some of the alleged perpetrators were star football players. In response to this cover up, members of the hacker group Anonymous hacked into various social media accounts and were successful in retrieving the previously deleted pictures and videos which they turned over to the national media.
In California, amidst a fight over public records, members of Anonymous posted the names and addresses of six Long Beach police officers along with names and ages of family members.
Take the time to review your security and privacy settings in Facebook. For example, I would recommend activating Login Approvals and Login Notifications. Login Approvals can be found in Account Settings under Security. Login Approval requires you to enter a code which is texted to you each time you log in to Facebook on a different computer. It keeps track of the computers you authorize so you only have to enter the code once. Of course you can also remove devices or computers from the list of authorized devices later if you want. Login Notifications will notify you if someone logs in to your Facebook account. On the same page, you can check Active Sessions which will tell you everywhere your Facebook account is logged in. From there, you can close sessions which you may not want to continue or that you did not authorize in the first place.
Remember not to put too much personal information on Facebook. Your birthday is just as valuable to some as your social security number. Also, you may be a huge fan of the 2nd Amendment, but clicking like on all those NRA pages or reposting all of those gun rights pictures secretly sponsored by the NRA is likely to make you look like a gun nut if you are involved in a shooting. Familiarize yourself with all of the settings that restrict (or grant) access to the things that you post. There is a link to Privacy Shortcuts on the menu bar between the Home link and the settings button.
There is a lot of information on this topic on the Internet. Take some time and do some reading. For example, this article on Lifehacker provides some good information. It may pay off later.