While anecdotal reports and some surveys suggest that the use of social media by local law enforcement is widespread, few details are known about how most police and sheriffs’ departments use social media for criminal investigations, public safety, and other types of information collection.
Through online research, the Brennan Center identified 35 publicly available policies governing these tools. This analysis indicates that even where a police or sheriff’s department has a policy in place, it rarely offers practical guidance to officers or notice to the public regarding how their social media data might be collected or monitored. The policies are linked below and broken down into the following categories:
- contemplated uses for social media and requirements, if any, for use in investigations
- authorization required for, and prohibitions on, use of social media
- rules governing situational awareness and other non-investigative purposes
- limits on covert and undercover activities
- language addressing constitutional rights
- restrictions on officers’ use of personal devices and accounts.