Police get lessons in social network use

COMMISSIONER of Police Owen Ellington has warned members of the constabulary to exercise extreme caution in their use of social networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and MySpace.

Writing in this week’s Force Orders, Ellington said careless use of these sites could result in safety risks and warned that improper use of the social networking sites may result in disciplinary action.

 “Personal social media sites are of potential safety and privacy risks to police employees and others if not carefully managed. Disclosing too much private information on social media makes a person easy to locate both on-line and off-line. This vulnerability creates a risk of identity theft, fraud, theft, physical attack, stalking, harassment and intimidation,” said the police chief.

Some social networking sites encourage users to post personal information and photographs of themselves and family members. Ellington warned that cops who post sensitive information such as their date of birth and spouse or parents’ names, can give persons with nefarious intent enough information to answer the security questions a bank will ask before giving them access to financial information or bank accounts.

“More importantly, the nature of police work exposes police employees to the risk of offenders seeking revenge. Social media sites with easily accessible personal information provide a simple and effective means to locate an officer and their family or friends.

“It is strongly recommended that to protect themselves, family and friends, police staff (sworn and unsworn) should never identify themselves either directly or indirectly as police force employees on social sites,” he said.

He also recommended that members of the constabulary limit the amount of personal information they post on social sites.

“Employees should think seriously about the risks involved to themselves, family and friends if they choose to include personal information about themselves or others in posts or social media sites, such as names, dates of birth, home or work addresses, private or work e-mail addresses or telephone numbers, relationship status or any other personal information, like photographs, that may be useful for identity thieves …,” he said.

Ellington was also livid that photographs are posted showing cops handling weapons and others which show an open display of intimacy. He also warned against policemen and women posting expressions of apathy towards the force and matters under investigation.

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