Police Monitoring MySpace, Case No. 420

Increasingly, policy are regularly monitoring MySpace pages for evidence of criminal activity. Here’s a recent case from near my hometown, as reported in a column in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

The 18-year-old Sheboygan guy was so proud of the pot plants he was growing in his basement that he posted pictures of them on two different Web sites, including MySpace.com.

The caption under one of them:

“My Mary Jane that’s growin in my closet right now ahah.”He was also generous enough to post a picture of himself and his friends flashing gang signs at what he called a “pajama party,” and even one of himself kneeling in front of his pot stash – which was still there when the Sheboygan cops showed up with a search warrant.

Ahah.

What they really should have brought along, I’m thinking, was an extra paycheck since Yang pretty much sealed the case himself.

Actually, Lt. David Schafhauser assured me, the cops still had to do a little bit of work.

They monitored the Web sites “off and on,” he said, “for a period of six months.” Plus, “there was a little bit of work in trying to determine who these people are and where they live.”

I asked Schafhauser if this was a trend up in Sheboygan – people posting pictures of themselves on the Internet engaging in crimes.

“Well,” he said, “they only do that once.”

I’m curious as to how the police located his home. Did they find identifying information in his MySpace profile or within the images to help figure out who the kid was or where he lived? Or did they contact MySpace directly to request the IP address of the user? If the latter, was a subpoena issued?

While this makes for a cute story, there are some larger issues in play…

UPDATE: I’ve been told that the kid was identified simply by showing a screenshot of his photo to the school’s liaison officer. This reminds me of the paper Stacey Schesser wrote for the “Identity and Identification in a Networked World” graduate student symposium: “MySpace on the record: The admissibility of social website content under the federal rules of evidence“.

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