A new U.S. law-enforcement tool: Facebook searches

Posted: July 15th, 2011 by Militant Libertarian

by Jeff John Roberts, Reuters

U.S. law-enforcement agencies are increasingly obtaining warrants to search Facebook, often gaining detailed access to users’ accounts without their knowledge.

A Reuters review of the Westlaw legal database shows that since 2008, federal judges have authorized at least two dozen warrants to search individuals’ Facebook accounts. Many of the warrants requested a laundry list of personal data such as messages, status updates, links to videos and photographs, calendars of future and past events, “Wall postings” and “rejected Friend requests.”

Federal agencies seeking the warrants include the FBI, DEA and ICE, and the investigations range from arson to rape to terrorism.

The Facebook search warrants typically demand a user’s “Neoprint” and “Photoprint” — terms that Facebook has used to describe a detailed package of profile and photo information that is not even available to users themselves.

These terms appear in manuals for law enforcement agencies on how to request data from Facebook. The manuals, posted on various public-advocacy websites, appear to have been prepared by Facebook, although a spokesman for the company declined to confirm their authenticity.

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