60-Second Tech

Facebook Posts Can Attract Legal Attention

Police may create phony Facebook accounts to root out criminals, but schools and businesses may be restrained from poking into the accounts of students and employees. Larry Greenemeier reports

Social media is still pretty new. So it’s not surprising that all the legal ins-and-outs haven't been worked out. Sometimes the unofficial rules of social media, such as transparency and free speech, are bent for the public good. Other times not so much.

In New York City, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly has given his officers the green light to register fake accounts on social media sites to catch bad guys. In one case they used Facebook to snag Brooklyn gang members who bragged online about murders they’d committed.

But sometimes using Facebook as an investigative tool goes too far for a judge. A 12- year-old Minnesota student was recently found to have had her First and Fourth amendment rights violated when her school demanded she turn over her Facebook password. School officials wanted to search her account for "inappropriate" messages after she had bad-mouthed a hall monitor online. Likewise, a California court shot down the Home Depot's request for access to a former employee's social network posts.

Whether you’re in the right or not, when you post online, you may get more attention than you wanted.

—Larry Greenemeier

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

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