Social network services are increasingly being used in legal and criminal investigations.
Information posted on sites such as Instagram, Orkut and Facebook has been used by police and university officials to prosecute users of said sites. DOT National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has made federal grants available to states to train law enforcement officers to use social media sites to identify events that may result in impaired driving or consumption by minors.
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The site, a popular online destination for college students, allows users to create profile pages with personal details.
In the early years of the site, these pages could be viewed by other registered users from the same school, including resident assistants, campus police, or others who signed up for the service.
The user privileges and terms of service of the site have since been changed to allow users to control who has the ability to view their content.
Recent disciplinary actions against students based on information made available on Facebook has spurred debate over the legality and ethics of school administrators' harvesting such information.
However, Facebook spokespeople have made clear that Facebook is a public forum and all information published on the site should be presumed available to the general public, school administrators included.
Legal experts agree that public information sources such as Facebook can be legally used in criminal or other investigations.
It has become increasingly common for colleges and universities to use Facebook to investigate underage drinking and violations of dry campus policies.
Students who violate these policies may be discovered through photographs of illicit drinking behavior, membership in drinking-related groups, or party information posted on the Facebook website.