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How LinkedIn and Google+ Helped Nab an Alleged Internet Drug Dealer


This is how your social media activity gives you away.

Ross William Ulbricht wasarrested this afternoon in San Francisco for, among other things, conspiracy to “violate the narcotics law of the United States.” Ulbricht is allegedly the Dread Pirate Roberts, the owner and administrator of Silk Road, a hidden website known as a destination to buy drugs. According to the complaint filed by authorities, Ulbricht made a series of rookie mistakes that led to his identification, chief among them using his real email address with his real name.

Ulbricht posted a comment on a Bitcoin forum in 2011 using his the email address The public Google+ profile associated with the account (which Google all but forces all users of Gmail to have), listed Ulbricht’s favorite YouTube videos, several of which were posted by the Mises Institute, which promotes the work of Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises. According to the complaint, the Mises Institute’s site allows users to create profiles. Ulbricht did.

So far, so innocent. But what clinched it for investigators is the Dread Pirate Roberts’s signature includes a link to the Mises Institute. He has also credited Austrian economic theory and Mises’s work as “providing the philosophical underpinnings for Silk Road,” according to the complaint.

Read the full story at Quartz.

(Image via chuckstock/

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