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Fond du Lac Police and Facebook

2009-08-22

Category: politics

Police in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin have done something I think is a very bad idea. They are trying to find the identity of a dead girl and, to do so, they set up a Facebook page for the girl. The worst part is that they had to get a court order to make Facebook violate its terms of service to do so. You can read an ABC News article here:Wisconsin Police Get Court Order to Feature Dead Girl on Facebook.

The summary of the story is that the Fond du Lac police have a dead body they can't identify by all the traditional means. Something leads them to believe that the girl is not local so they want to spread the message far and wide to gather information. I'm all for that.

To help get the message out they set up a Facebook page for the girl under the name "Jane Doe". The Facebook name filters recognize "Jane Doe" as a fake name and boots the account. Good for Facebook! Their function is social interaction, not posting images of dead girls in hope someone may find them. The police were violating the terms of service and finally got a court order to make Facebook let them.

This is a problem for me. Facebook is a private business that provides a very specific service. This judge just told them that they must provide a different service at their own expense. It's not too far from being forced to quarter troops in your home.

Many law enforcement agencies have webs sites where they can post whatever they want. There are missing person web sites just for cases like this. There is absolutely no reason to force a private institution to host information that violates its rules and purpose.

Facebook was very polite in helping the Fond du Lac police set up a profile for this girl that would not get booted. In fact, they handled things very well. Still, as much as I am generally a fan of law enforcement, the Fond du Lac police department is flirting with going outside the law on this one. The judge involved should have known better.

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