The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures by the police. This is generally interpreted to mean that police cannot search an area in which a person has a reasonable expectation privacy without a warranty or an exigency. Courts have declared that people have an expectation of privacy when posting information on social media. In the case of Commonwealth v. Carrasquillo, 489 Mass. 107 (2022) a video posted by a person on social media was downloaded by a police officer and then used as evidence against the person at a criminal trial. The Court ruled that because the defendant had “friended” the police officer he granted permission for the police officer to access his postings. The police officer used a user name that did not disclose that he was a police officer.
Each person with a social media account controls what they post and who has access to the information posted. They can limit access to the account to their friends. They can allow the entire world to see their postings by not making the information restricted. Each person decides who has access to their account by deciding who becomes a “friend.” In this case, the Defendant invited the police officer to look at the account by friending the officer. It makes no difference that he didn’t know the man’s true identity as an policeman.
Be careful who you chose for friends. Your friends may not be who you think they are.