Federal agents in South Carolina were able to track down and apprehend a sexual predator earlier this year with the help of Facebook, reports South Carolina news outlet The State. Investigators were able to link child pornography found on a hard drive confiscated in Boston to photos on Facebook showing a child “very similar in appearance” originating in the Myrtle Beach area, allowing them to track down the accused.
According to The State, Facebook’s involvement came to light last week after a special agent with Homeland Security Investigations filed for a search warrant for the suspect’s email. The social company reportedly cooperated in the investigation by helping connect the photos to the right account holder and then to Joseph Robert Smith. In an affidavit, Smith was deemed “very similar in appearance to an individual who is able to be partially seen in two of the child pornographic images,” and was arrested on September 25th on a $30,000 unsecured bond. He faces up to 20 years in prison if he’s convicted.
The case comes as a shot in the arm for law enforcement as they become increasingly reliant on social media to conduct police work. “Now, more and more, you’re seeing subpoenas for social media accounts,” assistant US attorney of Charleston Dean Secor told The State. “We’re utilizing information from social networks on practically any kind of case.”
Update: We’ve learned that facial recognition technology was not used to identify the victim in the photographs that brought about Smith’s capture. That can be attributed to detective work.