I was recently tasked to perform a social network investigation to "find anything damaging on a few litigants in the world of cyberspace." It was an interesting opportunity that I found myself whole-heartedly interested in. But with my limited legal knowledge (watching "Law & Order: SVU") I quickly realized that I could really only advise my client on the social media aspect of the investigation.
After some initial research, combined with my previous experience on the web and social networks, I believe it would be extremely difficult to find anything of legal significance on any of these "subjects" online. Here's why:
There are currently over 750 million registered users on Facebook. And more than 200 million on Twitter. And on each of those there are multiple people with the same user-defined name. Even if you know the current location of each person of interest, it still only narrows the field to a user-defined list of people in or around the area. There are some lat/long GPS check-in social networks, but they are far less popular. Foursquare has 10 million registered users.
Then if you actually find the correct person, it would be very rare that you find anything of substance to use in a legal case of this matter (i.e. someone tweeting: "I am stealing a bunch of money from my doctor LOL"). Occasionally, with some criminal lawsuits (i.e. the recent riots and looting in London) people are dumb enough to post something that could be used as evidence in a court of law (i.e. looters in London posting pictures of what they stole). But in these cases the best you might do is find a person to be greedy (i.e. "just bought a new Porsche I can't afford"), with poor ethical standards ("bitches ain't shit but hoes and tricks"), or maybe, if you are lucky, admitting to use of drugs ("I am so stoned right now"). Only a complete moron would tweet, post, or check-in to a place and state that they are doing something illegal - but then again there were those London looters?