07/19/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Watch What You Say... Online

Can't find me on my cell? Can't track me down at the office? Have you checked Twitter? Or perused Facebook? Social networking sites are great for tracking people down, but they're even better for checking people out!

But then, you knew that...right? If you think only your "friends" have access to what you post...think again. It's old news that employers and colleges may take a peek at your online writing, but few people realize it can be a great source of discovery and evidence for cops, investigators, and lawyers.

There's so much to be learned from one's "profile page"...from marital status to whereabouts, to who your friends, networks, causes, and affiliates are. And that doesn't even include photos on other people's wall posts. All of these will give someone a pretty good picture of who you are, where you are, and what you're doing. As Belinda Luscombe so aptly points out in her article, Facebook and Divorce:

"Lawyers, love these sites, which can be evidentiary gold mines. Did your husband's new girlfriend Twitter about getting a new piece of jewelry? The court might regard that as marital assets being disbursed to a third party."


Lest you think you're safe if you don't accept a person as a "friend" on a social website, all that person has to do is jump onto someone else's computer to get a sense of the smack you are talking, the dirty laundry you are airing, or the information that you (or others are posting) that can turn into a smoking gun, or at least a damning piece of impeachment evidence. If you don't believe me, ask Casey Anthony how much of her MySpace profile is now part of the official discovery in the murder case against her.

As a prosecutor, the first thing I do when I get a case is to Google the victim, the suspect, and all the material witnesses. I run them all through Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, You Tube and see what I might get. I also do a "Google image search" and see what pops up. Sometimes there's nothing, but other times I get the goods-- pictures, status updates, and better yet, blogs and articles they've written.

How fantastic is that? A blog written by the suspect about his mind set, plans, or Fifth Amendment problems here. And it's a beautiful statement in his own words. It's all there for the taking and I take it and shove it right down his throat in court.

And let me tell you, I am not alone. I anticipate that the lawyer on the other side will do the same thing, so I prepare my witnesses and victims for it, just as I'm now preparing you. So all you potential litigants, parties to lawsuits, plaintiffs, defendants, victims, and suspects....don't say I didn't tell you. You, too, are being watched, searched, Googled and twittered. And that means you, too, counsel!