Posted on 6/03/2013
Gold Coast criminal defence lawyer Andrew Moloney says both police and offenders are now actively using social media sites to look for evidence of offences or potential burglary targets.
He said recent warnings by police for people not to post social media images or information which might attract burglars to their homes could also apply to warning people not to brag on social media about their activities.
“Social media has become the communications phenomenon of the 21st Century and the fact of people posting text and images of their everyday life on Facebook and other social media platforms now comes with big unexpected risks,” he said.
Mr Moloney, of Gold Coast criminal defence law firm Moloney MacCallum Lawyers, said police now routinely checked social media sites for evidence of criminal activity as people bragged about their goings-on. Lawyers too were checking social media sites to see what their clients may have said.
“Often people just don’t think before they post and a brag on Facebook or Twitter or some incriminating uploaded photos can help police pursue charges.
“At the same time police are warning people not to upload holiday pictures to Facebook if they are away from home as this can just alert the wrong people that you are not at home and your house might be vulnerable.
“There’s a mindset among some people that puts very personal information on social networking sites, not realising police are reading the posts too, looking for evidence of crimes and too often people post self- incriminating remarks in cyberspace,” Mr Moloney said..
Although social network posts might in theory be protected behind privacy settings, police could still monitor them.
“Private emails and mobile phone text messages are included in sweeping phone tap powers available to Queensland police since mid-2009. The phone tap powers actually cover any form of electronic communication,” he said.
Mr Moloney said police were also warning people that holiday posts on social media sites could encourage burglars to break into vacant homes.
“It shows how powerful social media use has become and people forget there’s a down side to it,” he added.
The prevalence of burglars using Facebook to target Australian homes featured in a recent study by Perth’s Edith Cowan University and the Australian Institute of Criminology where researchers interviewed offenders.
“Defence lawyers also monitor social network sites, for information which could help in questioning witnesses. A person who says one thing in court might have posted something quite different on a social media site.
“The key question for people is this- would you post the images or comments you post on Facebook etc, if you knew the police were intercepting it? If your remarks could incriminate you, don’t post them,” Mr Moloney said.