Police Ask Facebook Fans to Identify a Thief. It Worked.

-Queenstown Criminal-The legal system down under takes Facebook very seriously. The first New Zealand Facebook arrest occurred yesterday when the Queenstown police posted images of a burglar on their Facebook Fan Page, according to The Register. The images were garnered from the security cameras at the Frankton Arms Tavern early yesterday morning.

When the thief broke into the tavern and attempted to crack open the safe, he not only failed to open it but he removed his mask as well. Then he ran, leaving an estimated $11,040 in the safe and a gleaming image of his mug for security cameras. The local police posted images of the burglar in newspapers and news websites, but it was the images posted on Facebook that ultimately led to the man’s arrest.

Once again, crime doesn’t pay, especially in the era of online social media. At least this burglar didn’t post the images himself, expecting not to get arrested for his illegal activity.

We’ve seen a number of teens posting their naughty behavior on Facebook as of late, and as Facebook becomes a well distributed social network it’s easy enough for someone you know to come across your shared media. Even with the seemingly endless privacy settings that Facebook has made available to users, a good amount of data still manages to get passed around, and many users are still unaware of the privacy settings that Facebook provides.

But we no longer have to wait for the criminals themselves to post images and videos of their illegal activity–the authorities have also recognized the power of Facebook and its ability to tap into the social graph representing a physical community outside of the online realm. And even though there are other websites dedicated to helping police find missing suspects, Facebook’s ready-made community makes disseminating information that much easier.

As more aspects of the legal system become acquainted with online social networks and the power of sharing media online, we’re likely to see a continued discussion of the ways in which such media and networks should be used regarding the legal system itself. Where do we draw the line between leveraging Facebook to identify photos from a security camera to serving legal documents electronically via a social network such as Facebook? And as such networks have yet to become more than fleeting fads on the Internet, what will the virtual standard ultimately become?

-Queenstown Police Fan Page-