Here’s yet another cautionary tale that you’ve probably heard before. If you are not careful about what you post on Facebook, or any of the other social media sites, it can get you into a lot of trouble. In Marvin Maurice Buckles’ case, it got him in front of a federal judge because he is a convicted felon who posted pictures of himself with a gun in his hand, and other pictures of guns in his home.
In a story on Local8 News, Attorney T. Scott Jones was interviewed about how attorneys and law enforcement use social media in their investigations. He spoke about how attorneys and the field experts they work with can “get into the metadata of the photograph… [and] can locate where the photograph was taken and the date and time.”
As Nick Geidner, a UT Assistant Professor of Journalism who was also interviewed for the story, put it: “If you don’t want everyone to see it, don’t post it.”
The thing that makes social media so powerful is also its detriment, Geidner went on to say. When you are posting images to your network, then someone shares it with their network and before long that image that you thought was private is now being seen everywhere. Deleting a post will not make it disappear from the internet, so when you are posting an image on social media, if it is not something that you would want everyone to see, you probably should not be posting it.
Social media discovery
Social media profiles are a gold mine for attorneys and law enforcement when they are in the discovery phase of a case. Margaret DiBianca writes in the American Bar Journal, “The ubiquitous nature of social media has made it an unrivaled source of evidence. Particularly in the areas of criminal, personal-injury, employment, and family law, social media evidence has played a key role in countless cases.”
The people being investigated are handing over pictures and status updates that provide mountains of evidence against themselves because they somehow thought that they could control who was seeing what they were posting online.
Tips for managing social network privacy and using social media wisely
Privacyrights.org has a resource page on how to use social media safely, how to safeguard your privacy and who can access your information. This page walks you through checking your privacy settings, understanding the different privacy policies, and information about how law enforcement uses social media.
Get familiar with the privacy settings on the social media platforms that you use. A good rule of thumb is to not have any expectation of privacy when you are posting to these free sites. That should curb your impulse to post something that has the potential to get you into trouble later.
Look at your profile from an outsider’s perspective. Log out of your account and then search for your name using an incognito window. This will give you an idea of what other people can get access to and see on your accounts.
For more information about these types of cases, we invite you to contact Banks & Jones to make an appointment with T. Scott Jones.