University of Wisconsin officials said Tuesday that they do not specifically seek out crimes through websites like Facebook and MySpace, but will turn to them for evidence after a student is caught in some sort of crime.
Associate Dean of Students Kevin Helmkamp said the information found by investigators isn?t the sole source used when building a case.
?Posted info [on Facebook] is used in corroboration of independent information if a student gets involved in possible misconduct,? Helmkamp said.
Helmkamp said investigators allow students to explain the circumstances in any posted items to ensure the information isn?t being misinterpreted as evidence. If the student confirms the pictures or comments, then the investigation continues using the evidence.
Helmkamp also noted social networking websites are not investigated every time a student runs into trouble with the law.
UW Police Department Lt. Peter Ystenes said UWPD mostly refers to social networking websites when charges are filed and a UW victim is involved. Usually these cases involve online threats or stalking. In these situations, the suspect is questioned and a follow-up investigation takes place.
Ystenes also stressed that authorities do not look for independent information or make random searches of students on these websites.
The UW System is currently considering changes to the Wisconsin Administration Code of Conduct, but as of right now, there are no plans to write in social networking websites into the university?s code of conduct as a definite means for investigation, according to Helmkamp.
Since social networking websites are already frequently referred to, Helmkamp said both authorities and students have accepted this as an avenue for evidence and will be used the same way in the future.