A new paradigm: Social Investigation through Social Networks

Disclaimer: This post makes a reference to the death of a young girl in Mumbai. I never knew her but I wish that her soul rests in peace and I really hope her murderer is found and duly punished. However, this post is about the interesting phenomenon of ‘social investigation’ I have observed around this ‘incident’ (if I may call it so).

The Incident:

A 24-year-old Tata Consultancy Services engineer was found dead on Monday morning in a hotel room in Andheri, where she had checked in with a male companion on Saturday.
Koushambi Layek, a systems consultant with TCS, was found dead in room number 202 of Hotel Sun-n-Sheel in Andheri (East) when the hotel staff opened the door with a duplicate key after their repeated calls on the intercom went unanswered. She was found lying on the bed soaked in blood with two bullets wounds.

[Indian Express]

The reaction:
She belonged to a cohort which is very active on Orkut and this incident is being heavily discussed online. Her scrapbook is being filled with messages of peace and condolences and rage for the murderer. Communities have been created to discuss this incident and make sure the message and investigation stays alive until justice is done.

Social Investigation:
Interestingly, her friends have launched a social investigation around this incident. The accused is also active on Orkut. His scrapbook and posts made by him are being actively scanned for pieces of evidence linking him to the crime. They have already found quite some interesting bits of information:
Social Investigation on Orkut
The above post shows how they found the accused individual frantically requesting phone number of another individual which has raised doubts about the potential involvement of someone else. The police too has been actively monitoring these communities to find interesting or implicating evidence.

Remarks:
Can this information be used as hard-evidence? Does this incident highlight how social investigation can possibly help law enforcement in the future? It surely highlights the importance of scanning social networking sites in addition to emails and web-access records to gather evidence. Is it harmful for investigation proceedings and speculations to be publicly available like this? As our lives become more public through these social networking websites, we probably want to reflect on what information about us people may get at in the future and whether we are comfortable having our information available in ways we do not foresee today.

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