The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) may be using fake identities on social networks to investigate criminal activities, according to digital rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).
The EFF cites a 33-page FBI presentation obtained through a Freedom of Information request that describes how investigators should collect and use evidence from social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn.
The document says undercover operations online are helpful for contacting suspected criminals and victims, accessing private information and mapping social networks.
Evidence gathered from social networks can help reveal personal communication links, establish motives and provide location information, the document says.
But the presentation highlights the problem that access may be viewed as unauthorised by courts if investigators break service terms and conditions by using fake identities.
The FBI document tells agents to investigate all witnesses on social networking sites and advises its own witnesses not to discuss cases online.
The presentation also instructs investigators to get additional information through requests to the social networking companies under the US Electronic Communications Privacy Act.