Officer Safety

Changes to hiding from public search on Facebook

Recent changes to the Facebook privacy settings, has made it difficult for users to conceal their personal profiles, as Facebook has removed the ability to hide from public search.  Facebook profiles have the ability to be located through the Facebook search function and in some cases via search engine sites such as Google.

However there is some reprieve.  Within the Facebook Privacy Settings, you have the option to remove yourself from a search engine link. This means that persons using a search engine to look for you via a name search, should be unable to link to your Facebook profile.

Go to > Privacy Settings  > Who Can Look Me Up?  > Do you want other search engines to link to your timeline?  > Uncheck the box.  (as per diagram below)

Be aware this may not remove a link to your profile due to any public content that you post.  As a result please ensure you check your privacy settings and only post your information to friends.

IBM launches the IBM i2 Group Intelligent Law Enforcement platform at #IACP2012

IBM is working towards becoming the “convener of the eco-system of public safety”

Today at the IACP Conference in San Diego, The IBM team including the i2 Group announced a new initiative to promote the higher level of intelligence analysis – calling it the IBM i2 Intelligent Law Enforcement platform. But, it’s not just another law enforcement solution for intelligence analytics, IBM is demonstrating its profound understanding for the need for integration among and between stakeholders beyond law enforcement in its provision of a solution to do just that. In addition to integrating the informational needs of several lateral stakeholders beyond police, IBM is acknowledging the connection between economic development and a safe environment in which to live.

In the screenshot above, the blue pins represent burglaries, the red pins are fires and the green are medical emergencies.

With the acquisition of i2 Group a year or so ago, IBM has Coplink and Analyst’s Notebook. But with the latest rendition of its software they’re integrating all of that and beyond by combining Big Data with analytics.

In a white paper which addresses in part the need for public safety agencies to do more with less and to link spending to outcomes:

In many developed economies, agencies are tasked with facing these challenges with state or decline real expenditures. … While Public safety agencies in emerging markets may not be faced with resource issues, the pace of organizational change required to deal with the growth in crime means they need to find new ways of working.

Martin Nathan is IBM’s Product Manger for i2 Group’s product line. He acknowledged that a lot of good police work is about a cop’s gut instinct, and added, “police officers are really bright, but there are only so many points of information they can take in. This type of technology grows that ability exponentially.”

What might be even more compelling is the platform’s portrayal of threat to the responding officer. By combining its tactical lead systems and analytical systems into one hub, the front line officers get feedback on suspects in a visual manner that could be lifesaving.

Nathan illustrated a police officer viewing the crime data from the previous several hours that occurred before his shift. Only, it’s not limited to specific crimes, but also fire calls and medical emergencies. And beyond that s/he can gain insight into the individual suspects criminal records and information from social services. Coplink and Analyst’s Notebook capabilities are integrated in such a way to give officers a very comprehensive lay of the land. S/he can see the suspect’s associations with other individuals, and other background information so not only can officers know they have the right suspect, they know how dangerous they are before they approach.

Mark Cleverly is IBM’s Global Lead for Public Safety. He spoke about five areas of need for improvement which guide IBM’s public safety development effort:
1. Increasing access to information, not just for law enforcement but for public partners and citizens
2. Create trust by inclusion of everything that is relevant
3. Delivery of information to the right points
4. Predictive analysis – adding pro-action to response analysis
5. Providing broader situation awareness

Inclusion of social media data sets are in the works as well, future versions of the platform might include YouTube videos and 311 data. Nathan wants to proceed cautiously in order to maintain integrity. He said social media can be a dead-end or a distraction and that the question is how to get to where the real value is. “We have a very good vision of content for social media analytics that we will incorporate after thorough research and through working closely with clients.”

Cleverly added, “we want to be as open as we can be to all participants who play a role in public safety, and that includes citizens, it’s not just about police, fire and ambulance.”

Related IBM whitepapers:
The value of smarter public safety and security

Accelerating economic growth and vitality through smarter public safety management

Stop and Search and Replay

Stop and search has always been a friction point between police and the communities they serve. Indeed several commentators cited it as a potential contributory factor to last year’s riots.

The New York equivalent “Stop-and-Frisk” has proved equally contentious with almost 700,000 people questioned on the city’s streets last year.

The vast majority were non-white and almost 9/10 had not committed a crime – see this article by Ryan Devereaux (@RDevro) in last week’s Guardian for further information.

However, of even more interest to me in the article was the news that the New York Civil Liberties Union had developed a mobile phone app to monitor the use of ”Stop-and-Frisk”.

I have written many times on this blog about how new technologies present new opportunities for law enforcement agencies to catch and prosecute criminals – from Smartphones that can report themselves stolen to the increasingly sophisticated police use of social media for gathering intelligence, investigating crimes and establishing evidence.

Of course, the same technologies present new opportunities for criminals too and the balance of power has shifted many times since the invention of fingerprints right up to DNA profiling and now, it would seem, the potential interception of all online communications.

But everything I have written about so far has involved the adoption of new technologies by either the police or the criminals they are trying to catch.

So it’s interesting to explore an innovation by a more neutral party.

How it works

The most important thing to understand about this app is that it is designed to be used by witnesses – not subjects – of Stop-and-Frisk.

This is particularly important. If the subject of a stop went to get his phone out of an inside pocket, it would be very easy for a police officer to assume he was reaching for a gun, with potentially tragic consequences.

The app has three main functions: record, listen and report which are explained in the short YouTube clip below:

Currently, the app is only available on Android, although it should be available for iPhone in July.

When I got a copy to test it out, I found that it had been downloaded by over 5,000 people in its first week.

It will be interesting to see what happens if the app enters into common use.

There is clearly value in ensuring that police officers in any country operate in a non-discriminatory way.

It’s also very easy to imagine how individuals who have been stopped with good reason might choose to act up to the camera, potentially igniting further problems.

I’m very interested in your views – from what ever perspective.

Please leave your comments below – there’s no need to login.

Spring Cleaning: How to Restrict Visibility of Old Facebook Posts

… or selectively remove old posts from the new Facebook Timeline

Facebook has a new look. It’s called the Timeline and it’s a mandatory change for all profiles and pages.

In a previous social media quick tip, we covered how to add historical information to your agency’s timeline. This week we’ll cover how to remove posts from your Timeline.

We’ve all heard stories about police officers who posted something that got them into trouble or caused embarrassment to the department. If you’ve been on Facebook for a while, there’s a good chance that if you look back through old posts, there might be something there that will gain new scrutiny or compromise your safety or that of fellow officers.

There’s a lot of important information packed into this quick tip. Not only do we cover how to selectively remove or hide old posts. But we also cover how to restrict who can see old posts and comments that were previously viewable only by your friends. What’s quite alarming is that because of the way Facebook has implemented the Timeline, those posts are now viewable to everyone on the planet.

How to Selectively Remove or Hide Old Posts

Hover your cursor on the old post and you’ll see two little boxes appear in the upper right corner of the post. Select the drop-down menu at the pencil icon and you’ll see an opportunity to either hide post or delete post, as you wish.

If the unwanted post wasn’t made by you but it’s on your Timeline because someone else put it there by tagging you, you can remove it from your Timeline by going to the same drop-down menu and selecting remove tag. Similarly, if it’s on your Timeline because you selected like from another website, you can select unlike in the drop-down.

The other little box in the upper right corner has a star in it. If you select that button, it will highlight your post by widening it to appear the entire width of your Timeline.

How to Restrict the Visibility of Past Posts
Previous posts, comments, photos that you previously set to be viewable only by your friends are likely now viewable to the public. To restrict the visibility of all old posts to be viewable only by friends:

1. In the upper-right corner of your page, pull down to privacy settings.
2. Then select limit the audience for past posts.
3. Select limit old posts.

These are important steps to take to maintain officer safety and career survival.

This Social Media QuickTip was previously published on LawOfficer.com

Sovereign Citizens, Officer Safety and Social Media

Chief (retired) Bob Paudert

LAwS Communications is teaming up with Chief Bob Paudert to bring officer safety training about the Sovereign Citizens movement to police officers electronically. Details are below.

May 20, 2010 was a very tragic day. Not only because it marks the day when two more officers died in the line of the duty, but for the father of one of those officers, it’s especially tragic because it might have been prevented. Bob Paudert was Chief of Police in West Memphis, Arkansas on that day in May nearly two years ago, when he was driving down Highway 40 with his wife Linda and heard the call that an officer was down. At that point, he didn’t know if it were one of his agency’s officers or another’s, and he surely didn’t expect what he learned when he arrived on the scene. One of the officers gun-downed during a traffic stop, was his own son Sergeant Brandon Paudert and Brandon’s partner Officer Bill Evans. The murderers were Jerry and Joe Kane, father and son. Joe Kane was just 16 years at the time. But due to “training” from his father, not too young to brandish the AK-47 that didn’t give the officers a chance. If you haven’t seen the tragic video of that day’s events, please view it here, before you read further.



The Feds dropped the ball

The Kanes were members of the “Sovereign Citizens” movement. Chief Paudert says if only the federal government had shared more of what it knew about these types of threats to domestic security, his son Brandon and partner Bill might be alive today. Instead, the two officers didn’t know who or what they were dealing with. In a taped interview shortly after the officers were killed, Paudert said they didn’t stand a chance. “… those those bullets fro the AK47 penetrate anything that’s in front of it. Brandon when he took cover, but he just didn’t have cover. It just penetrated and riddled is body with bullets.”

To the Chief, information sharing from the feds to state and local law enforcement has been non-existent and he hasn’t been shy about sharing that opinion. Paudert has had direct and personal contact with Attorney General Eric Holder, as well as with the staff at the FBI’s Domestic Terrorism Unit. Paudert politely points out that the federal government insists they are aware of the problem and are “working on it”, and that he has seen significant changes in these agencies in the recent months. He explained, “the U. S. Attorney has had a representative at each of our conferences to contribute resources and share information with the state and local officers. I have also been in contact with the FBI and they too are participating in the conferences and using the NCIC to alert officers on the possible dangers on traffic stops. With this effort, of all working together and sharing critical information, we will save officers’ lives”. In recent weeks, we’ve seen several main stream news articles indicating that the Feds are finally addressing the issue.

But Chief Paudert is too smart to know the feds aren’t going to take care of business like it needs to happen, so he’s taken it upon himself, as painful as that can be. Every day since that day in 2010 he’s been the spokesperson for educating law officers of the danger of sovereign citizens.

And then he quit his job

In order to meet the needs of the law enforcement community, Chief Paudert quit his post as Chief of Police in West Memphis as of August 31, 2011. On September 1st, he began a non-stop road-trip of public appearances to speak to law enforcement groups about sovereign citizens.

He had been speaking to groups all along but wanted to devote more time to his mission. But, traveling constantly, as the Chief has been doing, can take a toll on self and on family. Paudert has no plans to quit because he feels he’s only scratching the service of what needs to be done to spread his message of officer safety. Instead, he wants to expand his reach to meet a bigger and growing demand.

Early in 2011 I connected with Chief Paudert to present the idea of using the power of social media to more efficiently spread his message to a bigger audience. The Chief’s not a technical guy, not many chiefs are, but he instantly understood the possibilities. In the beginning, he said, he struggled with email, phone and speaking engagements to warn law officers of the dangers of the “insidious sovereign citizens’ movement, calling the task daunting and exhaustive. He added, “With social media we can get our message out to thousands of officers in much less time and cost. Time is certainly a major factor in this mission. The more we reach, the more lives will be saved.” And that’s the bottom line.

First we created a Facebook fan page for the Chief. Please hit the “like” button. If you explore the tabs on the left, you’ll discover resources covering the many dangers of the Sovereign Citizen movement, educational videos, law enforcement tips, and links to a wealth of other information about domestic terrorists at the Southern Poverty Law Center website.

Growing the message

Because the Chief can’t be stretched far enough to meet demand and the need for education in this area, he has teamed up with LAwS Communications to bring his important training – the same training he delivers on the road – to law enforcement in a webinar format.

To begin, we scheduled two dates and times, April 16th at 1:00 p.m. and April 23rd at 6:00 p.m. By holding two webinars, our intention is to accommodate shift changes. At $49, we’ve kept the cost as low as possible and we hope it is within the reach of any agency’s budget.

Here are all the important links you need:

To download the flier with all the info, click here.
To register for the webinars click here.
To find Chief Paudert’s Facebook Fan Page, click here.
The YouTube video (also inserted above), can be found here.
An interview with Paudert by Commercial Appeal, part one, is here.
An interview with Paudert by Commercial Appeal, part two, is here.


The Call to Action: Social Media for Officer Safety

With social media, there is no end to the possible outcomes. Personally, I want to see these tools used strategically by law enforcement agencies in investigations and for community engagement, and also by people like Paudert, who have important information to share. But it doesn’t end here.

We, collectively, are an army…. a really big one. After you attend this webinar, use what you learn to share the information far and wide. Schedule within your social media agenda to tweet one tweet every day just one message to help keep YOUR officers safe. There are many many more officer safety messages to be shared (and we have plans to do so here at LAwS Communications in the future.) If every law enforcement agency on Twitter tweeted just one officer safety message per day, that would be tens of thousands of messages. The really exciting part is that those messages also reach beyond officers into the huge community of supporters. Together, WE CAN squash the hate. All of it, everwhere. At least our voice of support for officer safety initiatives should be louder than the rest.

To register to attend the Sovereign Citizen and Officer Safety Webinar click the links below:

To keep abreast of future news about The SMILE Conference, social media in law enforcement and how LAwS Communications will promote the use of social media to expand messages of officer safety, please join the LAwSComm email list here.

Social Media Quick Tip: Beware of the “Who Stalks My Page” Scams on Facebook

Facebook scams are plentiful and most of us like to think we’re pretty good at spotting them. One in particular seems to nab law officers from time to time. It’s the one that promises to tell you who “stalks” your page the most. Sometimes it’s also worded as “see who views your profile.”

To officers, it’s a double-edge sword because if it actually worked, it would be very useful in an investigation if someone complained of being harassed. To be able to run an application that (presto!) showed who’s been stalking the victim’s page would be very useful in finding out who the main suspects are. But it doesn’t work that way.

In my training sessions with law enforcement, I’ve been asked more than once if I could tell them how to do just what this scam claims to do. The twist was, in each case where I was asked, it was the cop or one of his/her colleagues who was being harassed on Facebook and they wanted to know which one of these “tools” I recommended.

Here’s the absolute truth: Every one of these claims is a scam. Facebook makes it very clear that the company doesn’t do this itself and won’t allow third party access to that information. If you click through to one of these scams, you will be giving the scammer access to your account. I shudder at the implications that has for officer safety. Beyond that, the scammer will use your account to send messages to all your Facebook friends on your behalf.

It isn’t possible to overstate the need for law officers to be careful with third-party applications on Facebook. The best rule is to assume that all of them will cause harm unless you know for certain it’s been created by a reputable company and serves a real purpose.

This Social Media QuickTip was previously published on LawOfficer.com.

Social Media Quick Tip: Keep Your Lat/Long to Yourself

Don’t let geolocation coordinates undermine your own safety

Geolocation coordinates can help you in an investigation, but they can also put your safety at risk. Turn off geolocation functions on your computers and smartphones. Photo iStock

Geolocation coordinates are everywhere in social networking these days. If you’re an investigator, you’ve probably figured out how useful such data can be to link someone to a time and a place.

Remember: Your own geolocation data can also be used to undermine your own safety. To help keep yourself, your family and officers at your department safe, do the following:

1. Turn off geolocation on your smartphones–on the phone itself and within the camera function. On a Blackberry, click Menu and then Turn Off GPS. On an iPhone go to Settings, then General. On an Android, from within the camera application, go to Location and Security and Disable GPS.

2. Turn geolocation off within the mobile apps installed on your smartphone as appropriate.

3. Turn geolocation off on social networks you access from a computer or tablet, such as an iPad.

4. Any digital photograph you take can have lat and long embedded. Digital cameras, especially late models, are likely to store this data with every image. If you take a photo of your children and post that photo online, you’ve just potentially told people where to find your kids.

5. Be mindful of all of the above advice if you play FourSquare or use Facebook Places.

Finally, and perhaps most important, have a sit-down with your kids and fellow officers, and make sure they understand these risks, as well.

This Social Media Quicktip was previously published on LawOfficer.com.

Facebook Secure Browsing for Officer Safety

And the implications for department social media policy

Early this year Facebook offered users the ability to use the sight a bit more securely with “secure browsing” (https) or SSL encryption, as Facebook said, “whenever possible”. It’s important to enable https, otherwise, any hacker sharing the same public wifi can easily infiltrate your social media accounts. But for police officers concerned about their own privacy and safety, there’s more to it.

Ethical hacker James F. Ruffer III of Unibox explained that with a plugin like Mozilla Firesheep anyone can BE YOU on sights like Facebook, WordPress, FourSquare, and Twitter The one protection a user has is enabling secure browsing with the https setting. In a recent post on the Social Media Security blog , he explained how with access, a hacker can control every aspect of the victim’s Facebook profile, including the victim’s Facebook Pages. He added, “Once I am in, the victim has to check secure browsing, log out, and log back in,” he said. “That’s the only way to destroy my attack vector.” Firesheep is a Mozilla Firefox browser extension and utilizes packet sniffing methods to intercept unencrypted cookies or sessions.

This technique is known as “sidejacking” and although the hacker doesn’t have control over the victim’s account, they have mirrored what the victim is doing from his or her browser onto theirs. Due to the high level of attention this security flaw demanded, a Mozilla Firefox plugin called Blacksheep was quickly developed to detect if Firesheep is being used on a network, Blacksheep tries to create “false” sessions IDs on a network to see if the sessions are being hijacked.

Hackers  can also use Firesheep to extend their access to Social Media Management platforms and still get simultaneous control of all the victim’s profiles from there, even if the https secure browsing is enabled.

Detective Constable and forensics investigator Warren Bulmer of the Toronto Police Service is an expert on Facebook security. He explained in most cases the victim wouldn’t know their account has been compromised unless the hacker makes a change. “As long as the person doesn’t do anything they could spy all day long. They can take digital pictures of your screens and collect intelligence all day long. There’s no way to know that they’re there.”

A big part of the problem is Facebook itself. Its new features are implemented automatically, so that users have to actively change the features, which, in many cases, involve user data. Facebook isn’t trying to allow hacking, rather than allow themselves the ability to collect mass amounts of user data. However, the tactic does leave security holes.

Recently the security firm Sophos issued an open letter to Facebook asking for three things, one of which was for https security to be turned on by default. When Facebook introduced the feature, the social network posted on its blog, “We hope to offer HTTPS as a default whenever you are using Facebook sometime in the future.”

Until Facebook makes secure browsing the default setting, know this:

  1. To turn on https secure browsing, in the upper right corner pull-down menu, go to “Account Settings”, then “Account Security”. The https checkbox is the first option.
  2. Some games you play or applications that you might install will turn off https. You should be notified when this happens, be sure to re-enable secure browsing afterwards.
  3. With https security turned on, your use of Facebook will likely run more slowly. It’s a small price to pay.
  4. Never trust any social network to guard your privacy. Guarding your information and therefore your safety and career security is your responsibility.

Regardless of whether Facebook enables the security setting by default or not, law enforcement officers need to take extra care to secure their profiles. Ruffer recommends using an Ironkey, an inexpensive USB device that guarantees secure browsing. Secure data plans like 3G, or a portable hub such a Verizon’s “Mifi”, can be pricey, but may be the best option. Otherwise, avoiding public wifi is the best protection.

Bulmer cautions that there are things you should “just not do” from a public computer or on a public wifi. “In these Internet cafés or coffee shops, you have no idea what their network or someone else also using it is capturing. It would be nice to be able to say the restaurant or hotel is legit and they don’t keep information. The reality is, you really don’t know that. The safest method, if you really need to use these social networks is to do as much security as possible,” he said.

So what should this mean for department social media policy?

When someone leaves the department, does department policy spell out how their accounts are processed and closed so that any security breaches that may have taken place on those accounts are done away with? The first article on ConnectedCOPS.net was an article on social media policy for law enforcement in August of 2009. In it, I called for requiring the people who use social media representing the department or in their personal lives to be competent with regard to how the platforms work. Social media is like anything else a law officer does at work, and it requires a significant amount of training to ensure this competence. Security issues like the one illustrated here reinforce the importance of this point. To this end, department policy should also require the pertinent security measures to help keep these breaches from happening in the first place.

Officer Safety: On Facebook, Remove Yourself from Public Search, Bing Still Finds You

One of the first things in the privacy settings on Facebook that many people like to take care of is to take themselves out of public search.  It’s a smart thing to do with a personal profile if you’re a law officer. Keeping private profiles as limited as possible to close friends and family is a good idea. If people can’t find you in a search, you don’t have to worry about what to do with unwanted friend requests.

If your Facebook profile is used as a professional profile, it’s a good idea to leave Public Search active so constituents can find you.

But taking oneself out of public search on Facebook does not mean the removal of your information from showing up in Bing search results, when a person is logged in to Facebook. So what this appears to mean, is that if a person can’t find you by running a search on search engines outside of Facebook, they can log into Facebook, run a search for you and you will show up in web results if you haven’t removed yoursellf from Bing. In this November 2010 announcement from Bing, it’s confusing, but it is explained.


1.

To take oneself out of public search, the first step is to – in the upper right corner where it says account – click and pull down to “privacy settings”. In the bottom left corner, under “Apps and Websites” click “edit your settings”.






2.

On the next screen click the “edit settings” button at “Public Search”.






3.

Uncheck the box.




4.

Then click “see preview”.  You might get a confirmation that looks like this.


















You think you’re done. You’re not. Anyone with a Facebook account – more than 500 million people at last count, can still log in and search your name. You will show up in web results from Bing unless you do the following.


5.

Go to the Facebook Help Center and click “Search”.

Then click “Search on Bing.com”




















6.

Then click on “How do I control what information appears in Bing results?”






















7.

Then click the third bullet point down Block Bing “here”.







































Sneaky huh? More to come…..

Officer Safety: Survival Guide for Cops on Facebook

There are two words that should never be in the same sentence: Facebook and Privacy. The exceptions, of course, are if in the same sentence are other words like “don’t bet on it”, “not a chance”  or “aint happenin'”. This post isn’t about slamming Facebook. I wouldn’t do that, I’m a Facebook fan. Nor is this a post about the stupid things some cops have done on Facebook which have caused embarrassment to their department, the compromising of a case, disciplinary action taken against them or even dismissal from their jobs. This post is about being a cop, being on Facebook and not compromising your safety or that of your family members or co-workers in the process.

I’m a huge proponent of law enforcement using Facebook and all social media in the strategic ways that make sense for their departments and their roles within them. In these cases, officers should always be using professional profiles, department email addresses and official photos. When citizens can go to their police department’s Facebook page and see posts by, and interact with, real officers, it’s a win-win for everyone. It’s especially essential that the officers in the very public-facing roles (Community Police Units, SROs, K9, etc) have visible profiles, as appropriate, and leverage these tools to the fullest extent possible. But that’s where it ends.

In October of 2010, Phoenix Police made a DUI stop and discovered a CD with many photographs and names of more than 30 Phoenix police officers and civilian employees which had been culled from Facebook profiles. On a flier distributed to law enforcement, posted here with permission, Phoenix PD’s Counterterrorism Unit advises to set profile settings to “friends only”. That’s a good first step. But it’s not enough. People who really want to harm you, like the people who create CD’s as described above, can still find you. The next several posts on this blog will take you through some crucial Facebook settings for officer safety.

I hate to say it, but the time has come. The more I think about it, the more convinced I become that cops shouldn’t have personal profiles on Facebook. I know it seems crazy coming from me. I also know that all you cops on Facebook aren’t exactly going to heed this advice and shut down your pages. So, maybe we can agree on an approach that will help guard your personal safety, and your kids’ safety, protect your career and keep the Chief off your back. Although, I could name a few chiefs who need this information too.

I have just three main points. but each has several sub-points.

  1. Don’t mix personal with professional
  2. Figure out how to set your privacy settings and pay attention to changes Facebook makes to them
  3. Clean-up your (online) act

1. Don’t mix personal with professional.

If  you have a professional profile, keep it that way.

  • Don’t friend the high school buddies, or especially any ex girlfriend or boyfriends. But also, don’t friend family members. Keep it completely professional, friend only co-workers and those citizens with whom you interact in the course of your work. This is hard to do, especially if you live in a small town.
  • Don’t put pictures of your family, especially the kids, on any profile in which you’re identified as a police officer. Even if the only identification is that you’ve listed “abc PD” as your employer.
  • Keep the photos of you being a regular guy or girl off the professional page. This includes everything from pictures of you holding a beer to information about your off-duty hobbies and interests.
  • You can figure out the friends lists feature on Facebook but for law officers, it’s about identifying oneself as a cop vs. not identifying oneself as a cop. Even if you have the professional contacts on one friends list, personal friends on the other, it doesn’t keep the two worlds separate enough. Especially when it comes to photos tagged with your name.

On your personal profiles, you’re not a cop, seriously.

  • No photos of anything law enforcement related. As hard as it is when you actually possess a photo of a hot chick in shorty shorts, sitting on the hood of your cruiser holding a firearm. Resist temptation. Show it to your buddies personally if you must, but leave it off Facebook.
  • Most important is that identifying yourself as an officer compromises your safety.
  • Even here, keep the photos of the kids off. It’s not fair but it’s reality.

2. Figure out Facebook privacy settings.

  • I can think of no good reason anyone would have settings at anything other than “friends only” let alone police officers.
  • One reason the above often happens is because too many people on Facebook haven’t learned how to change the privacy settings, or they don’t care. As a police officer, if you don’t care or can’t be bothered to thoroughly learn to manage privacy settings on Facebook, stay off for your own good. For a glimpse of how Facebook regularly changes default privacy settings, see Matt KcKeon’s “The Evolution of Privacy on Facebook” here.
  • Click through every thing available under both privacy and account settings and lock them down.
  • Don’t play the third-party “Send a virtual drink to somebody” or “Does Jessica look better with long hair?” games. When installed they take all your personal information as well as personal information of everyone you’re connected to. When your friends play these games – your info goes with theirs. Go into application settings and delete whatever is installed that you don’t recognize and trust. And note that this is another reason to keep your private profile separate from professional. You can’t control what your friends do online.
  • The next few posts on ConnectedCOPS.net will take you through some key privacy settings. For example, one way to help prevent people from finding your personal Facebook profile is to take yourself out of public search. Unfortunately, I recently discovered that it doesn’t mean you won’t be found by the Bing search engine. Tomorrow I’ll show you how to block Bing.

3. Clean-up your (online) act

  • Law enforcement has to smarten up about personal information
  • Anything you post, any “like” button you hit, will be closely scrutinized by cop-haters and/or defense attorneys. If you “like” the Page of an organization that an attorney can use to point a finger at you and discredit your testimony or get your case thrown out, it will happen.
  • Don’t assume your so-called friends on Facebook won’t be the ones who report something you’ve posted to your Command Officer. It has happened and at least one cop in Georgia lost his job because of it.
  • Watch what others post about you and educate your friends and family. If you’re at a party and people are taking pictures, rest assured they’ll be on Facebook tomorrow. That photo of you having a good time will be tagged with your name linking to your professional profile. Even just photos of you spending time with family can be a threat to you if they appear online.  You can untag yourself, but you can’t make the photo go away.
  • Facebook has already begun to introduce facial recognition technology. Those high school photos that you don’t think look anything close to how you look now, will be traced to photos of you today that you thought nobody but your friends would see. Want to work undercover? It might cost you that opportunity.

Keeping up with Facebook is a lot of work. I started writing this blog post nearly a year ago. It seems like every time I went to finish it, something else about Facebook changed and I had to start over. I and the rest of the ConnectedCOPS writers will attempt to stay abreast of Facebook changes with the goal of having relevant information for you.  But even if you master Facebook Privacy settings, do you have that warm fuzzy feeling that your information is really safe?

If you ever have a question don’t hesitate to let me know and stay safe out there, and online.