All that has been covered on the TV news this morning has been the arrest of a suspect for the Ipswich / Suffolk / Trimley prostitute murders. What caught my eye in particular was the fact that the TV coverage focused rather heavily on the fact that the suspect, Tom Stephens, has a MySpace. And a brief search online showed that The Guardian has shown us where Tom's MySpace is - http://www.myspace.com/85784962.
So was the suspect's use of social networks such as MySpace instrumental in his apprehension? From what I have read I think not. Will the openly searchable links to his "friends" and their networks help the police? I expect it will. But now that, probably, millions of the world's e-literate home detectives will be perusing and blogging about the suspect's online life, how will this impact his life and the privacy of his online friends. Will they be blocked? Will they be deleted? They haven't been yet.
I hope that social networks will help create better visibilty for the police and other forces involved in issues such as this. But my concern is that it is at the expense of the privacy of the extended networks caught up in the action and the innocent-until-proven-guilty suspects involved.
At the time of writing this post, Tom has seven friends on MySpace and I hear this morning he had nine. Google says there are six links on blogs to Tom Stephen's profile using his profile shortcut (myspace.com/85784962) and 14 links to Tom's profile through the long version. The Guardian's coverage of this issue can be found here
* Update 8:30am on 19/12 - Tom Stephen's MySpace has now been deleted.