My story today took a look at some of the issues surrounding state agencies using social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook and LinkIn to reach out to the community.
On a related note, here’s an Associated Press story about how the FBI is also on Facebook and Twitter, although they don’t necessarily want to be your best friend:
U.S. law enforcement agents are following the rest of the Internet world into popular social-networking services, going undercover with false online profiles to communicate with suspects and gather private information, according to an internal Justice Department document that offers a tantalizing glimpse of issues related to privacy and crime-fighting.
It’s a recipe for the conspiracy-minded, but it’s also a useful caution that not everything is as it seems online.
The California-based Electronic Frontier Foundation found out about the federal law enforcement methods after filing a lawsuit over a Freedom of Information request. They have more details on their blog, including a copy of the training guide used by IRS agents:
The IRS should be commended for its detailed training that clearly prohibits employees from using deception or fake social networking accounts to obtain information. Its policies generally limit employees to using publicly available information. The good example set by the IRS is in stark contrast to the U.S. Marshalls and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Neither organization found any documents on social networking sites in response to EFF’s request suggesting they do not have any written policies or restrictions upon the use of these websites.
Here in Oklahoma, we had a cautionary story about social media sites in 2008. Officials from the Oklahoma Tax Commission sent a $320,000 tax bill to a group of students throwing parties. The Tax Commission found out about the parties on MySpace. The case was eventually settled for much less.