Generally speaking, when people talk about “hacking” someone else’s social media profile, they really just mean accessing it without authorization. They’re not actually using hacking software or forcing the site to comply in that sense. What they are doing is pretending to be the other person by logging into their account and then posting messages, pictures, videos, or other updates in their name. 

This can happen in a number of different ways. Perhaps the person left their Facebook account logged in on a university computer. Maybe they used an auto-login on their phone and the person who “hacked” the account just used their phone when they were not around. This is something that is fairly frequent, especially with young people, but can it lead to serious charges? Could doing this count as identity theft?

It certainly doesn’t in all cases, but legal precedents have been set showing that it can, in extreme circumstances, lead to legal charges. In one case, a young man used a young woman’s account without permission. He posted explicit messages of a sexual nature on the accounts of other classmates, making obscene remarks, sexual references and things of that nature. 

While that young man may have just intended it to be a joke, the court found that it could qualify as identity theft. He had assumed her identity online and made remarks that could harm her reputation. 

The issue here is that many high school students and college students do this type of thing, honestly believing it is a harmless prank. They do not understand the ramifications. Those who unexpectedly find themselves facing charges need to know what legal options they have.