Thursday, November 8, 2007

It's not really your space...

Now that nearly everyone in a certain age range (16-25) has a myspace and/or a facebook page, it is worth reminding "everyone" that what you put on your web page is available for everyone else to look at (and download), whether you want them to or not. And, it is a proven fact that some of these uninvited guests are people who want to take advantage of you in some way. Arming them with certain information can make it much easier to victimize you than ever before. These surfers can find out (from you) what your interests are, who you hang out with, what you like to do in your spare time, where you were last Saturday, where you plan on being this Saturday, etc. It's creepy to think about, isn't it? They can also easily start a dialogue with you, while pretending to be someone that they are not, putting you in an extremely vulnerable position. Whether these creeps want your money, or something more dear to you, they can't be trusted with your personal, if not private, information.

In addition to the creeps are other uninvited guests. Police detectives and other investigators, at an increasing rate, are visiting your web pages. And, no, they are not likely visiting you to catch the web-voyeurs who have no legitimate reason to be visiting. If the police are visiting your site, on the tax-payers' dime, it is likely because they see it as relevant, in some way, to a pending or future criminal case. They used to have to call or meet with people to gather intelligence and develop leads on their suspects. Now they can get far more data than ever before while sitting in their cubicles; and they might get some great photos too. This kind of intelligence can prove devastating to someone who stands accused of something.

If you are facing a criminal charge, or you think you are under investigation by the police, my advice to you is to take your web page off line, at least until the matter resolves. Moreover, be very mindful of what you leave on your hard-drive. The police can easily get a warrant to seize your computer, and what they find they will not hesitate to put on a projection screen in court at your trial or sentencing hearing. Local prosecutors are using this device to foil defense efforts on an increasing rate.

On a related note, be very careful of what you communicate on the web about sensitive and/or pending legal matters...and with whom. For instance, if you are facing a criminal charge, don't email the police on websites like Question Authority on the UCSB Police Website. I'm sure it might feel good to tell them a thing or two. Also, you might suppose that they are there to help. Perhaps they think that they are there to help. However, they are not bound by any law of privilege or code of ethics that would prevent them from using the information you supply them against you in court. In fact, they might even get a big pat on the back from the community if doing so helped solve a major crime. No one would feel sorry for you, "the criminal", if you were stupid enough to seek legal advice from a non-lawyer (much less a cop), on the internet. Think about it.

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