Eyebrows were raised oneline this week when an inadvertant disclosure revealed the extent to which a major state law enforcement agency is accessing social media and social networking resources in criminal investigations. A Tweet, containing a screenshot from an agency browser, intending to show information through an image of a map, showed a bit more tradecraft than the agency wanted to expose to the public.
The screenshot showed, on the borders of the image, that the computer featured icons that were shortcuts to Facebook pages of what appear to be investigative targets of the agency, non-profits with political agendas and potential public actions in support of them. The fact that they were shortcuts, which facilitate easy and quick access, confirm that regular monitoring of these social media sites was in progress.
Using facial recognition software platforms, photos of members of targeted organizations are extracted from social media sites, and tags found in photographs are used to identify individuals whose images are acquired from postings on the sites, including group photographs.
Law enforcement agencies routinely, and successfully, use social media resources to identify gang members, potential insider trading information recipients, paramours and girlfriends of fugitives from justice, aliases of targets of an investigation, and many other applications. The story which we have detailed here confirms a specific use of social media resources ti identify Persons of Interest by using facial recognition software programs to glean personal information on them, appearing on a group page.