Forensic investigation of social networking applications

Social networking applications such as Facebook, Linkedin, MySpace and Twitter provide facilities including email, blogging, instant messaging and photo sharing for social and commercial exchange1 . There has been a rapid growth in the use of social networking applications by both individuals and organizations 2,3 . An increasing number or organizations use Facebook and Twitter as part of their marketing campaigns4,5 . Although social networking applications are mainly used for personal purposes, some organizations actively encourage their employees to use social networking applications within the work environment to potentially improve productivity via enhanced information sharing above and beyond the corporate network6,7 . Social media can provide employees with formal and informal ties to information sources both within and beyond organizational boundaries8 . However, some organizations might not fully appreciate the potential for misuse that social networking applications may provide9 . If organizations do allow employees to use social networking applications within the work environment then it would be prudent to set out guidelines for such in the organization’s computer usage policy10, 11, to ensure that employees are provided with explicit guidance regarding the use of social media in the workplace. Morrison12 commented that it is crucial for all employers to make clear the standards that are expected of their employees in relation to not only the use of corporate social media account, but also employees’ own accounts. Misuse of social media may occur in many different forms, from defamation of individuals, to nurses violating patient rights through misuse of social media13 and data loss occurring to organizations resulting from inappropriate use of social media14 . Forensic investigation of social media may be required for a variety of different purposes, from gathering evidence for use in a criminal trial15 to use in corporate disciplinary panels for employees that have breached company policy16 . Moore17 commented that complaints originating from social media make up at least half of a front-line police officer’s work according to the head of the UK College of Policing.

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