Many individuals use social media services without reading the terms in their privacy policies. As reported by Vox.com, companies may share their users’ data with law enforcement when officials request bulk information.
Investigators may purchase the geographic location data of all visitors to a particular website on a certain date. The information provided by data brokers, however, is broad. It may not confirm the identity of a person of interest.
Officials may require a warrant to retrieve complete online data
When law enforcement opens an investigation involving a specific person, a court must issue a warrant to collect detailed information. The data that a social media company may turn over includes user names, addresses and log-in histories.
Armed with a search warrant, officials may retrieve the entire contents of a user’s social media account. This may include direct messages that the court-issued warrant may allow as evidence to file charges.
Social media helped file drug charges against Wisconsin resident
As reported by the La Crosse Tribune, law enforcement used social media content to arrest a 27-year-old Wisconsin resident. The investigation began with a photo allegedly showing the suspect’s basement containing about 200 marijuana plants.
Officials allege he uploaded videos driving across several states with marijuana products and bags for storing drugs. His online video postings provided evidence to file seven drug-related charges. A warrant also allowed law enforcement to retrieve the suspect’s cellphone location data. The geographic information helped officers track and arrest him.
Although law enforcement may purchase online content from data brokers, the type of sweeping information obtained may not provide enough evidence to charge and convict. Without a search warrant, a prosecutor may not have sufficient proof to convince a jury of wrongdoing.