Cops "must know": 2 ways to secretly follow Twitter peeps
There’s been lots of great attention given to Twitter lists recently, and for good reason. It’s the best thing to happen to Twitter in a very long time (when time is calculated in Twitter time that is).
So what if you’re a cop and there’s someone on Twitter that might be someone you want to watch but you can’t click the follow button ‘cuz it’s too obvious and you need to lay a little lower?
1. Make a Twitter list. A Twitter “list” can have one person on it. It can have as many as 500 Twitter accounts on it. BUT, you don’t have to follow people on the list. So you make a list of as many or as few people as you want. If you make the list public, people on it will know it. But if you keep the list private, people on it DON’T KNOW IT. I’ve got some private lists, but none of you cop-types are on them, I promise.
2. Click the RSS feed button on their Twitter page. The people followed won’t know who follows them on RSS.
Nothing in social media is hyper-secure, but you know that. However, if there’s someone you just need to keep an open eye on, this is worth considering.
I’m not a cop. Is this useful? At least a couple LEO’s have said they think it is. Just sharing, just in case….
David, Thank-you for your thoughtful comments. I agree with all three points wholeheartedly. This is so good I’m half tempted to post it as an article of its own! Thanks also for support ConnectedCOPS with these excellent arguments. I look forward to more input from you.
I’m not a cop, but I’ve had the opportunity to see this whole issue from the other side of the social networks, of which I am a very active and long-standing user.
First of all, cops need to take advantage of social networks to reach out to parts of the non-police community with whom they have common goals and interests, or at least make themselves available to people who want to make contact with them. I’m in the anti-money laundering & counter-terror finance world, and needed to find LEA partners, mainly in Europe, for a major project I was putting together in this field where I needed to be able to exchange knowledge with police experts in several European countries on AML/CTF and organised crime. I was able to reach out to both Europol and Interpol by finding the right domain experts on LinkedIn, even though I also needed some personal recommendations afterwards to get the people to actually commit to the project. I also reached out to another international organisation in the crime research field; and once they were on board, they were able to bring in an important national LEA with very strong experience in organised crime, as well as other partners needed for the project.
Secondly, in many communities and countries, ordinary citizens don’t see the police as a trusted partner, or at least not enough. If ordinary cops of any rank, not the PR types and spokesmen but the ones doing the policing and detective work, communicate to the general public through social media, honestly and without spin, they can win a lot of trust and cooperation. It doesn’t matter in principle (even though it may in practice) whether they’re using blogs, Twitter or Facebook, or something else, this is a tremendous way for cops to get the message across that “we’re on your side.” But it does take some mental and cultural changes, because effective communication, the sort that will inspire feedback and valuable information from the public, requires the police to bring themselves down to the level of the communities they serve. That doesn’t always come naturally.
Thirdly, using social media for police work requires that the police be much more willing to listen to feedback, comment and even harsh criticism. I am originally from Britain, where the police have been given ever broader powers over the last 10-12 years by a government whose confused law enforcement policies have made the public feel that the police aren’t protecting citizens from crime but fulfilling bureaucratic targets instead; and where the result is approaching a police state. My gut feeling is that the police, even the cops who also aren’t happy with this situation, will find honest and open public criticism difficult to swallow. But if they don’t do so, then they will just exacerbate the ‘us and them’ phenomenon, and make the public less willing to cooperate.
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