Facebook Status as Alibi?

Lora Bentley

I should have expected Friday the 13th to bring on some odd stories. Most of the time I'm able to ignore the sensationalized headlines in the entertainment or crime sections. But when CNN.com offered "Facebook status update provides alibi," I couldn't help but click through -- especially since we've been covering Facebook and other social networking technology extensively in recent months.


Essentially, robbery charges that had been filed against a 19-year-old in New York City were dropped after the time stamp on a status update to his Facebook account, which was entered from a computer in his father's Harlem apartment, showed he could not have been committing a robbery at that same time in Brooklyn. Writer Vanessa Juarez says:

It wasn't until [the father] discovered his son's Facebook update that the young man's defense attorney realized he had an unbeatable alibi.

Prosecutors subpoenaed information from Facebook to confirm that the entry was made from a computer in the father's home one minute before the robbery occurred, and "it worked," the young man's defense attorney said. The official data from Facebook corroborrated the alibi.


Now, I don't know all the details, but I'm guessing other factors besides the Facebook status that led the prosecutors to dismiss the charges in this case. I'm glad that the entry helped the defense's case along, but a Facebook status update most likely will not always prove to be an airtight alibi.


Facebook is not immune to hijackers; nor is it i<strong>mmune to hackers.</strong> In fact, a friend of mine fell victim to a phishing attack not too long ago that resulted in many vulgar and profanity-ridden updates to her status on Facebook, and they certainly didn't come from her. What's more, as an attorney quoted in the CNN.com piece points out,"a kid could set up an alibi by setting up a Facebook update."


The young man's defense attorney points to the content of this particular update as evidence it wasn't contrived. He explained that the status update, "On the phone with this fat chick, where my IHOP?" was "a playful reference to [the young man]'s pregnant girlfriend who was irked that he, his father and his stepmother had gone to an IHOP without her the night before."

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