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Facebook and Undercover Police: Free Speech and the Death of Common Sense

facebook police social media policyImagine you were an undercover police officer. Wouldn’t it make sense to avoid Facebook and other social networking sites like the plague?

And if you didn’t have the common sense to stay away from social media, is it a crime for someone to make your identity public using the information you’ve already posted online?

Unfortunately, this isn’t theory. A woman has been arrested because she revealed an undercover police officer’s identity using his Facebook information to do so.

Here’s what apparently happened.

The undercover police officer testified at a trial. The woman was a friend of the criminal defendant and was upset about how the defendant had been treated.

To retaliate, she used the police officer’s Facebook public information to expose him on Facebook as an undercover police officer.

Now the woman has been arrested on the grounds that her actions constituted a threat to the safety of the police officer.

Petty and vindictive? Yes.

Criminal? Only if we reject the concept of First Amendment free speech and totally ignore the fact the officer’s publicly available Facebook information was used to identify him.

Perhaps the officer’s days of undercover police work are through. But that’s probably a good thing. He’ll have more time to use social media at a desk job.

As for the police department, like business website owners, the department needs to implement a social media policy that prevents this type of fiasco from occurring in the first place. That’s better than shooting the messenger who exposed the problem (regardless of her intention when doing so).

Mike Young, Esq.

Author Mike Young, Esq.

Mike Young has been practicing business and technology law since 1994 and is an angel investor in startups. He's been an entrepreneur since 1988. To get legal help from Attorney Young, click here now or call 214-546-4247 to schedule a phone consultation.

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