Social Network Surveillance
You can't have too many friends is a proverb coined long before Facebook arrived. The fact is, you certainly can have too many friends on Facebook, Twitter, Myspace and LinkedIn, especially when you don't know who they really are...
Who is Watching You On Facebook?
Government agencies ranging from the IRS to state and county regulators often start investigations into suspected fraud with a Google search on a person of interest. From there, they access social network traces of the subject's activities and statements. "I got a new Porsche!" posted gleefully online may not jibe with the income reported on your tax return. You might as well shout such incriminating statements into the IRS' voicemail system!
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services' agents are under standing orders to try and "friend" applicants for citizenship on social networks, and the applicants' real friends, in hope of eliciting information that will uncover fraudulent citizenship applications.
But you haven't done anything wrong, so you have nothing to hide, right? Maybe not...
What you put on social networks need only "look bad" to cause you enormous trouble. Insurance fraud investigators - actually, people who are paid to find any excuse to deny a claim or cancel coverage - troll Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Twitter, and other social networks looking for evidence to misconstrue.
One woman, allegedly suffering chronic depression, had her insurance canceled because Facebook photos showed her sunning on a beach and dancing. The insurer argued that she couldn't be depressed if she was having a good time. But of course, psychiatrists often prescribe having a good time to alleviate depression. Being seen with aspirin doesn't prove you don't have a headache.
Potential and current employers use social network surveillance to find discrepancies between employment applications and work histories published on LinkedIn and the like; to learn what employees really think about their employers; and to find some sort of "conduct unbecoming" that can be used to fire someone they don't want to keep.
Lovers and spouses have shot each other over postings on social networks. Private investigators love social networks, which save them lots of shoe leather in tracking a suspected cheater or uncovering attempts to hide assets during a divorce.
Local police probably make greater use of social networking surveillance than any other group. Every week, you can find news reports of petty criminals who bragged about "getting away with it" on Facebook. As an old cop adage says, "We don't catch the smart ones."
The moral of all this is: don't put anything on social networks that you wouldn't want your worst enemy to see! It can and will be used against you. Remember that "friends" and "followers" are just ego-boosting marketing buzzwords that social networks use to entice you into building lots of marketing data that they can sell. Make friends only with people you know in real life, not some avatar who may very well be an auditor. Review your friends and followers periodically and delete those you don't recognize. Use whatever privacy settings are available to restrict access to your social network data to known friends.
Do you have something to say about social network surveillance? Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 31 Jan 2011
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Social Network Surveillance (Posted: 31 Jan 2011)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved