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Social Media Quick Tip: Choose Your Facebook Profile Photo Wisely

Want to keep your LEO status on the DL? Don’t post a thin blue line image or a photo of yourself in uniform.

What’s the one thing people can see even if they aren’t connected to you on Facebook?

It’s your profile photo.

If you don’t want people you don’t know to know you’re a law enforcement officer, keep all signs of it off your photo on your personal profile. This seems obvious but we’ve heard of situations where people were outed as cops because, when a fellow officer had died, they turned their profile photo into the thin blue line. When they turned the photo back to one of themselves, the photo and their name were collected by people who might target them. It’s outrageous, but true.

Choose your photo wisely, and stay safe.

This Social Media Quick-tip was previously published on LawOfficer.com

Social Media Quick Tip: Turn Your Department's Profile Into a Fan Page

Why? You’ll avoid maxing out your page.

If you're using a personal profile page for your department, once you hit 5,000 friends, you can’t have any more. With a fan page, you don’t have that limit.

Some police departments set up their Facebook (FB) page as a personal profile page; that is, one that’s meant for an individual person. Instead of someone “liking” your page, they become your friend. There are a few downsides to this, but chief among them is that FB means personal profiles to be for individuals and has been known to shut those pages down. Secondly, once you hit 5,000 friends, you can’t have any more. With a fan page, you don’t have that limit.

The good news is that a recent development in FB allows you to turn your friends into fans. If you have 2,000 friends, you can use the FB migration tool and not lose them, instead they are converted into “likes” on a page. But the only other thing that goes with your fans are your profile photos. All your other photos and any other content should be downloaded for reposting on your new fan page.

Learn more directly from Facebook, including information on how to download your information for backup.

This Social Media Quick-tip was previously published on LawOfficer.com

Related from Mashable: You Can Now Convert Your Facebook Profile to a Facebook Page

Social Media Handbook for Police: Part 6

Welcome to the the next installment in my series of social media tips. These are aimed primarily at a police audience, but hopefully applicable to a wider group of people too, especially those in the public sector. This series of posts will aim to identify some good practice and useful hints and tips for police officers and staff to consider when using social media.

Part 6: ’We don’t do that here’

For many of you this series may seem interesting but ultimately pointless, as your force won’t let you use social media. Between ICT departments that block access to most social media sites, Professional Standards departments that advise officers never to use them, and chief officers who don’t understand what social media is, it can sometimes feel like an uphill battle.

Here a some ideas that might help you persuade your force to use social media…and a suggestion for what to do if they still won’t.

Language – speak English. Most folks don’t understand talk of tweets, followers, liking and status updates. Easiest way to lose the argument before you start is to sound like a 10 year old explaining the rules of Yu-Gi-Oh or which Pokemon is best.

Don’t sound like a 10 year old

Benefits – talk about engagement and conversations by all means, but nothing gains the attention of your managers more than operational examples of benefits. There are real examples of using social media to bring offenders to justice – @hotelalpha9 gives examples of tracing graffitti artists through facebook, and there are plenty more examples out there.

Cost – in the current climate there will always be an expectation that new stuff saves money, or is cost neutral. Push the fact that all of the tools you need are free.

Time – the other objection you will often get is the fact that you will be spending hours in front of the computer updating your status. This is a) not true (one or two updates a day are more than enough, b) if you use Twitter or Facebook on a mobile phone, updates can be done in otherwise ‘dead’ time whilst waiting for people etc, and c) irrelevant, as a conversation with the public about policing issues is just as valid a use of your time online as it is offline.

Trust – get used to the fact that as soon as you say you want to use social media, professional standards will assume you are suddenly incapable of talking to the public without getting everything approved and signed off in advance. Stress that they already trust you to talk and make decisions, to drive fast cars and tackle people physically, (and in some cases to use a firearm) – why does this trust suddenly disappear when you are typing a few words on a computer?

…and if all of this fails to persuade people? Many of us started using personal time and computers / phones, stressing that we were not official police representatives and posting about police issues. This may not be a risk you want to take…but often leadership requires taking some risks, and only when people see the benefits for themselves will they be willing to follow.

This way – image Steve Snodgrass on Flick’r
Pokemon by gochie*on Flick’r

This post was previously published on Partrdigej’s blog.

Previous posts from the Social Media Handbook Series:

Part 1: What Social Media networks should I use?

Part 2: How do I get followers / friends ???

Part 3: Policies / Strategies / Guidance??

Part 4: Ten things to have on your page to drive up interest??

Part 5: What to do when things go wrong

Justin Partridge

Justin Partridge is a senior manager for Lincolnshire Police in England. He also works on Local Policing and Partnerships for the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO).

Justin Partridge has worked in the public sector since leaving university, and for the police since 2003. After being one of only three non-sworn staff selected for the prestigious Police Strategic Command Course (for those who aspire to the most senior posts in UK policing), he started working on the national Local Policing and Partnerships area with chief officers from across the UK, and with partners from the Home Office, NPIA, APA and elsewhere.

Justin is passionate about making a difference to people, and see social media and new technologies having a major role in this – especially in policing and the wider public sector. He blogs on a variety of issues, predominantly around police and technology, and can be found on Twitter talking about much the same.

LexisNexis’ Investigator Network Wins BtoB Magazine’s Best Closed Community

Out of more than 120 entries, BtoB Magazine selected this year’s best of the best in social media across eight categories. LexisNexis won best Closed Community for the LexisNexis Investigators Network, the secure online community for investigators, analysts and other law enforcement professionals. In addition to winning the Closed Community category, LexisNexis was also named one of the top three favorite entries from a non-technology company and was nominated for the People’s Choice Award.

BtoB selected the LexisNexis Investigators Network from a strong group of entrants due to the community’s success engaging law enforcement. Due to the sensitivity of some topics and the desire to promote safe collaboration amongst officers and agencies,  LexisNexis designed the network with a firewall and limited membership exclusively for users of their public records investigative solution, Accurint® for Law Enforcement, who are licensed after credentialing – putting officers’ minds at ease. “We are truly grateful for this award and are proud to offer law enforcement a secure network to help fight crimes faster. We’d also like to thank the users who have really embraced the community,” said Haywood Talcove, Chief Executive Officer, LexisNexis Special Services, Inc. “With the unique ability for law enforcement to securely collaborate online, this network allows users to share crime-fighting tips and best practices with others across the country – working more efficiently to keep our communities safe.”

Members can connect with peers, learn from noted experts and share experiences to help others across the nation. The network also provides members with tools to upload articles and resources, communicate directly with peers and access news, information and exclusive feature articles. With the ability to securely connect, share and learn via the network, law enforcement can work more efficiently to solve crimes faster and keep communities safe.

There’s no doubt the community appeals to law enforcement, since first launching in early 2010, there are over 5,700 users today, which includes 1,700 agencies across all 50 states.

Learn more about the LexisNexis Investigators Network at The SMILE Conference, during the lunch workshop on Tuesday, May 11th!


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.

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