Divorce lawyers and debt collectors have relied on Facebook photos and tweets to prove their cases against defendants, but criminal cases using social media as evidence have been far less numerous – albeit receiving much more press. This may all change as the UK introduces some new social media training for its police force.

In the past, law enforcement has generally been reactive online rather than proactive. Remember the biker who was saved because of her tweets? Rescue services were only made aware of her nasty spill through several phone calls from the biker’s Twitter followers. And what about the videos of animal abuse that have made their way to Youtube? The online community brought these deeds to law enforcement, which then took action.

Now, the UK is trying to reverse this trend by arming their police force with knowledge of how to use Facebook and other social networks to catch criminals so they can strike first.

The Telegraph reported that the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA) would revamp its detective training program to focus more on Facebook and Twitter evidence-gathering.

The evidence that detectives would be looking for would be used to track, monitor, and apprehend suspected criminals.

The Telegraph reports that about 3,500 detectives pass through the NPIA’s training each year. New graduates will be fully equipped to deal with a fast-paced digital world.

Deputy Chief Constable Nick Gargan, acting head of the National Policing Improvement Agency, has this to say about social networks like Facebook and Twitter in police work:

“…the new training covers sensitive areas of policing where limited guidance existed previously. These improvements are exactly what detectives need to tackle the challenges and complexities of modern policing effectively.”

This new police training program illustrates just how important social networks have become in all of our lives. We post, often without a second thought, where we’re going, what we did on the weekend, and when we’re out of the house. A lot of the privacy and security problems that people have with geo-location-based social networks revolves around the disclosure of information that could be pounced on by criminals looking to break into an empty home – but what if that information could be used against the criminals themselves? What if police forces around the world were equipped with the training necessary to monitor suspects the same way they could potentially monitor victims?

Of course, this brings up another layer of privacy concerns around just how much data the police would be able to access. If you are a suspect, do you have fewer privacy rights online?

Maybe a similar program should be made available for regular citizens, teaching them about privacy and their rights online.