Kevin O'Connor's official title is Assistant Commissioner – Juvenile Justice Division, which makes him head of the the NYPD's "Social Media Unit." (Apparently stalking people on Facebook is associated with juveniles.) O'Connor's new role was announced last summer just before OWS fever hit Manhattan. A 23-year NYPD veteran, O'Connor had succeeded in bringing in some key criminal cases by monitoring the Facebook and Twitter accounts of criminal braggarts. You can bet that his department was working overtime during the OWS protests, combing through the massive online conversation in search of arrest-worthy offenses.
That feels icky, right? Isn't it kind of an invasion privacy, having the state monitor your web habits to see if you're doing wrong? Well, get used to it. The network is not yours. The network is a ripe snooping ground for police and other law enforcement personnel, mining for criminal behavior. Your words might incriminate you before you even realize what it means to be a criminal. Don't say it, don't even think it, Kevin is watching.
It is stunning how revealing your online chatter can be. And make no mistake — if somebody loses an eye, the electronic narrative of your life will be subpoenaed faster than you can say "NYPD Social Media Unit". It only takes a look through the Tyler Clementi case to see how much fleeting human interaction has migrated to the internet, suddenly making it available to scrutinize, judge and prosecute.
So what's one to do when in need of discussing something even vaguely illegal? Well, you can try the old meet-in-a-church trick, or adjacent bathroom stalls. Just don't go online.