Think Twice Before Going Undercover

Who would have thought that creating a fake profile on MySpace (a violation of their user agreement) could lead to a criminal conviction? The recent verdict in the case of Lori Drew concluded that she was guilty of computer fraud for doing just that. Of course the verdict was influenced by the belief that the email messages sent under the false identity contributed to a girl’s suicide, and certainly gave the impetus for the criminal charge.

Let this be a warning to information researchers and investigators who are collecting data on subjects through their social networking sites.

As part of my investigations I do passive information gathering on the Internet, like monitoring MySpace sites. Other investigators have asked me if they should create a profile to become a “friend” of someone who has a private MySpace page in order to get access to the full site. Before you do it you better be tech savvy so you can cover your footsteps.

Like with any other investigative action keep in mind: Is this legal and ethical? How would it be perceived by a jury? Will this be detrimental to the overall case? Are there unintended consequences that may reflect badly on my client?

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