Facebook is used by approximately 845 million people across the world.  Individuals use Facebook, among other reasons, to keep up with friends and as a method of self-expression, but now you can add one more use to that list.

In the northern German city of Hanover, which is the capital of the German state of Lower Saxony, the social media tool is being used to catch criminals.  Six months ago, Hanover police set up a Facebook account in an effort to use the help of the public in solving cases.  The Facebook group “Polizei Hannover” with some 23 thousand friends, and with 1.6 million hits over the past month, has helped in clearing cases involving missing persons, a break-in, and auto theft.  The state’s interior minister, Uwe Schuenemann, said in a statement regarding its use of Facebook, “Our successes so far clearly show that the police must not shut themselves off from this medium.”  Saxony’s successes include clearing up a missing persons case after the suspects’ images were circulated on the Lower-Saxony Police fan page.  The use of suspects’ pictures on Facebook in Germany raises issues of great concern among data protection groups.  Their concern arrises from the fact that once outside of Europe, the European Union data protection laws don’t apply.  Governments are starting to use Facebook in novel ways to identify criminals and help to solve criminal cases.

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