Tag! Now You’re Really “It” What Photographs on Social Networking Sites Mean for the Fourth Amendment

June 16, 2012

Now that mobile technological devices like camera phones pervade our world, allowing people to capture images and scenes in places and at times never before possible, serious privacy concerns inevitably arise. The fact that users of social networking sites, which are growing rapidly in popularity, frequently and commonly propagate these easily captured images, as well as traditional ones, throughout cyberspace with startling ease only serves to bolster such threats to personal privacy. Transforming threat to reality, law enforcement officers search these online sites and use the photographs posted to them to help effect significant legal consequences. Given such staggering new social dynamics, novel legal questions emerge regarding what privacy expectations exist in the social conscience of today’s technologically hip world as well as whether traditional privacy formulations and the guarantees of the Fourth Amendment are adequately equipped to protect those expectations. In light of the various and harsh penalties that can arise from users’ ability to post and widely share photographs of others both with and without those people’s knowledge, the government’s accessing and use of such photographs could, under certain circumstances, constitute constitutionally unwarranted invasions of privacy.