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Judge: Police Can Create Fake Social Media Profiles to Gather Evidence

A federal judge in New Jersey has ruled that investigators who set up fake social media profiles to investigate a jewelry thief did not need a warrant because the thief had accepted their requests to connect.

I love instances when traditional customs and professions run headlong into issues related to emerging technology. For example, this great story from earlier this week (via Mass Live):

“A federal judge in New Jersey ruled last week that police may create fake social network profiles in order to search a suspect’s account, according to CNN.

U.S. District Court judge William Martini made the ruling as he denied a defendants motion to suppress evidence collected from an Instagram profile after he connected with an undercover agent.”

Daniel Gatson, the defendant who was under investigation for running a jewelry theft ring, had accepted a follower request from a fake Instagram account operated by police. This gave investigators access to photos uploaded by Gatson of the allegedly stolen jewelry. Apparently, he had assumed his account’s privacy settings would keep the photos away from unwanted eyes. Unfortunately for Gatson, his indiscretion in accepting friend requests ended up being his undoing.

The judge’s ruling is a terrific example of the law’s ability, by necessity, to adapt to new technologies. As social media grows in popularity among normal citizens and criminals alike, expect to see more stories like this pop up in the future. And if you’re a jewelry thief like Gatson who uploads photos of loot to your Instagram account… well, I hope you get what’s coming.

Read more at Mass Live

Photo credit: chillchill_lanla / Shutterstock


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