When the cops subpoena your Facebook information?

7 comments, 546 views, posted 7:10 pm 07/04/2012 in Politics by bradpitt
bradpitt has 14391 posts, 5519 threads, 2077 points
Ekki-Ekki-Ekki-Ekki-PTANG. Zoom-Boing. Z'nourrwringmm.

...here's what Facebook sends the cops

This week's Boston Phoenix cover story -- Hunting the Craigslist Killer: An Untold Detective Story from the Digital Frontier -- would not have been possible without access to a huge trove of case files released by the Boston Police Department. Many of those documents have never been made public -- until now. As a kind of online appendix to the article, we're publishing over a dozen documents from the file, ranging from transcripts of interviews to the subpoenas that investigators obtained from the tech companies that helped them track the killer's digital fingerprints. We've also published the crime scene photos and uploaded recordings made by investigators as they interviewed the killer, Philip Markoff, and others involved in the case.

One of the most fascinating documents we came across was the BPD's subpoena of Philip Markoff's Facebook information. It's interesting for a number of reasons -- for one thing, Facebook has been pretty tight-lipped about the subpoena process, even refusing to acknowledge how many subpoenas they've served. Social-networking data is a contested part of a complicated legal ecosystem -- in some cases, courts have found that such data is protected by the Stored Communications Act.

In fact, we'd never seen an executed Facebook subpoena before -- but here we have one, including the forms that Boston Police filed to obtain the information, and the printed (on paper!) response that Facebook sent back, which includes text printouts of Markoff's wall posts, photos he uploaded as well as photos he was tagged in, a comprehensive list of friends with their Facebook IDs (which we've redacted), and a long table of login and IP data.

This document was publicly released by Boston Police as part of the case file. In other case documents, the police have clearly redacted sensitive information. And while the police were evidently comfortable releasing Markoff's unredacted Facebook subpoena, we weren't. Markoff may be dead, but the very-much-alive friends in his friend list were not subpoenaed, and yet their full names and Facebook ID's were part of the document. So we took the additional step of redacting as much identifying information as we could -- knowing that any redaction we performed would be imperfect, but believing that there's a strong argument for distributing this, not only for its value in illustrating the Markoff case, but as a rare window into the shadowy process by which Facebook deals with law enforcement.

As far as we can tell, nobody's ever seen what one of these looks like -- and we're hoping the social media, law, and privacy experts out there can glean insight from it:

Related link for example:

Extra Points Given by:

griffin (5)


8:29 pm 07/04/2012



Get rid of your old Facebook posts.

11:30 pm 08/04/2012


We all live in the hope that we will never enjoy the prying eyes of the law.

But what happens if someone in authority decides they want to discover a little more about you? What if, despite your fine privacy settings on Facebook, the police or a prosecutor decides they'd like to bypass all of that?

As part of its investigation of Philip Markoff, the so-called Craigslist Killer, the Boston Phoenix got hold of the documents that Facebook sent the authorities after a subpoena had been issued.

These documents were part of the Boston Police Department's case file. They reveal that, in essence, Facebook is able to reveal everything you have posted to the site. At least, that is how it seems.

(Credit: Screenshot: Chris Matyszczyk/CNET)

In this instance, the company offered up wall posts, a list of friends (complete with Facebook IDs), detailed data of logins and IP addresses, as well as all the photos Markoff posted or was tagged in.

The causal eye might imagine that Facebook -- the folks who brought you the historic Timeline -- keeps everything for a rainy day.

One fascination is that when you are subpoenaed, the process is confidential. Indeed, the letter from Suffolk County District Attorney's Office to Facebook reads: "Because this is a criminal investigation, we are requesting that neither you, nor your office disclose the fact or the existence of our request, the investigation and/or any compliance or action made with respect thereto."

The joy of Facebook -- for those who find it joyous -- is that it provides a vehicle for the sheer spontaneity of communication. You want people to make contact with your life, your friends, your happenings, your feelings, even. You want them to do it as soon as possible.

However, it's not like normal human spontaneity, which can dissipate and become a memory. It's recorded.

There's another aspect which is faintly troubling. If you happen to be the Facebook friend of someone who's subpoenaed, it appears that your details come along for the ride. So the authorities get far more of a view of you, even though you're not the one subject to investigation.

Facebook has traditionally refused to say how many subpoena requests it has had or, indeed, any details about them. It could well be that every last element of your Facebook activity has already been examined by someone in authority.

Should that prove to be the case, would you even be surprised?

11:42 pm 08/04/2012


07/04/2012 wants it's post back!


11:50 pm 08/04/2012



12:50 am 09/04/2012


Quote by griffin:
Get rid of your old Facebook posts.

or, don't post your life on a website. crazy idea, i know....

5:22 am 09/04/2012


Quote by Flee:
Quote by griffin:
Get rid of your old Facebook posts.

or, don't post your life on a website. crazy idea, i know....

I'll never FB. period. no problems then

5:24 am 09/04/2012


I do. My pic is 11 years old, I dont ever update my status, etc. They could get convos between my GF and myself, but thats about it.

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