The school year is underway, and regional officials and administrators are bracing for another rash of "sexting" incidents. Lawyers are having a field day in Ohio divorce courts thanks to well-documented infidelities on Facebook. Corporate attorneys are making the case for libel against local Yelp authors. However, the greatest Internet-led crackdown is occurring on Ohio's motorways, and social media users are willingly giving themselves up.
Foursquare is among the country's most popular web and mobile applications, allowing registered users of the free service the opportunity to "check-in" at locations, earning them points and "badges". Among obsessives, the "mayor" status is highly coveted, and tells other Foursquare users they visited a certain location more frequently than any other user. Recognizing the public's constant need for acceptance, restaurants and bars are using the application to drive business. Currently, a number of establishments offer discounts, specials and more to Foursquare users who regularly check-in.
"The FBI developed an algorithm to track patterns of usage among users of social media applications, among them Foursquare," says Ohio state patrolman Frank Itidio. "It was clear that certain individuals most frequently 'checked-in' at bars, night clubs and restaurants. We've been using this algorithm locally, in a unique tracking system that allows us to monitor the whereabouts of certain Foursquare users."
Itidio won't divulge how users are "red flagged", but notes that "becoming mayor of your favorite bar may make you look cool among your Facepage [sic] friends or on Mytown [sic], but it makes you a problem driver in the eyes of local law enforcement."
Since the program started in June, officers have recorded 38 arrests for DUI, following stops based on Foursquare user updates. Regina Pantiodano was one of them.
"I thought it was harmless," says Pantiodano, a 38-year-old marketing executive and blogger living in the suburbs of Columbus, Ohio. "I wanted everyone to know how often I went out, how often I supported local businesses. I wanted people to know that I had a cool social life. I wish I had just kept it to myself, and enjoyed it for what it was."
Pantiodano became mayor of her favorite bar (which she prefers not to name) in Columbus' Short North district. "I often went after work with friends," she says. "I went at least four times per week." On Friday, June 4 at 11:45 pm, moments after leaving her favorite Short North bar, Pantiodano was stopped by a special social media mounted police task force, when she failed to indicate at a turn.The mounted task force were waiting for her after her name was picked out by the FBI-created algorithm being used by Columbus law enforcement.
"While I am not familiar with all the details of Ms. Pantiodano's case, I do know that her Foursquare check-ins, in combination with her Twitters [sic] and Facepage [sic] updates indicated a pattern of activity that was perceived as reckless." A visit to Pantiodano's Facebook page, which still contains her Foursquare updates from June 4, indicates 11 different Foursquare check-ins: a grocery store, a beauty supply retailer, her home, a gas station, a restaurant, convenient store and five bars.
That night, she was arrested and later convicted of a DUI, sentenced to two nights in jail, ordered to pay more than $1,000 in fines and lost her mayor status. She has since quit using Foursquare and "only really uses Facebook to update my profile picture and post pics of my dog."