Here's what Facebook sends the cops in response to a subpoena

Here's what Facebook sends the cops in response to a subpoena

Summary: When the authorities send a subpoena to Facebook for your account information, what do they receive? Here is a document showing the pages and pages of data Facebook hands over.


Facebook already shares its Law Enforcement Guidelines publicly, but we've never actually seen the data Menlo Park sends over to the cops when it gets a formal subpoena for your profile information. Now we know. This appears to be the first time we get to see what a Facebook account report looks like.

The 71-page document is actually two documents in one. The first eight pages are the actual subpoena; the remaining 62 pages are from Facebook. Most of the pages sent over from the social networking giant consist of a single photograph, plus formal details such as the image's caption, when the image was uploaded, by whom, and who was tagged. Other information released includes Wall posts, messages, contacts, and past activity on the site.

The document was released by the The Boston Phoenix as part of a lengthy feature titled "Hunting the Craigslist Killer," which describes how an online investigation helped officials track down Philip Markoff. The man committed suicide, which meant the police didn't care if the Facebook document was published elsewhere, after robbing two women and murdering a third.

I've embedded the full thing, courtesy of The Boston Phoenix, for you above. Here's what the newspaper had to say about the release:

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 part of the feature, the newspaper chose to release an extensive amount of evidence that was used in the case. Part of that includes the data Menlo Park sent over to the cops after receiving a subpoena for Markoff's Facebook account.

As The Boston Phoenix notes, however, the Facebook file contains much more than just information on Markoff. Because we're talking about Facebook, the world's largest social network, it is very difficult (or is it just much more work?) to get all the details about someone's activities on such a service without including information about others.

I have two questions about this. Why did the police not redact the file before public release, forcing the newspaper to do what clearly needs to be done? Furthermore, why did The Boston Phoenix redact identifying information of Markoff's friends but left all the event and profile IDs in the browsing history section, allowing anyone to browse the events and profiles that Markoff visited?

Last year, there was some brouhaha when Anonymous and LulzSec hackers leaked Facebook law enforcement guidelines. While they were indeed leaked, they were not new: not only were the guidelines already made available by Facebook, but they were already out of date.

Facebook followed up by publishing a webpage where you can get the latest from Facebook on its law enforcement rules. You can check it out for yourself here: Information for Law Enforcement Authorities.

See also:

Topic: Social Enterprise

Emil Protalinski

About Emil Protalinski

Emil is a freelance journalist writing for CNET and ZDNet. Over the years,
he has covered the tech industry for multiple publications, including Ars
Technica, Neowin, and TechSpot.

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  • Well..

    There are tacos falling out of my nose. I don't know how that could happen. Sour cream is dripping from my rear.
    beau parisi

    Files like this will be redeemed redundant if CISPA ever sees the light of day. CISPA (Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Providing Act) entails that the government can ask internet providers or even companies for all the private information of their users, no questions asked. A bit like RICO, only on an even bigger, more global scale.

    I do not like how the privacy policies of the US (land of the free? LOL) are evolving these last couple of years.

    Apologies for possible typos and errors in my english, it's only my second language.
  • Nothing to hide ?

    Nothing to worry about ... I don't care at all about camera's in the street or the ability to get my "records" ... only people who want to hide stuff think it shouldn't happen..
    • re: Nothing to hide?

      Without a doubt you are being overly simplistic. Sure watch me in a public street with a camera. However, my phone records (for example) are nobody's business but my own unless the police get a warrant, as it should be. Gotta agree weird that the police might in the future be able to grab your internet records without a warrant, seems counter-inuitive.
    • Nothing to hide?

      People who think that we shouldn't complain about government snooping if we have nothing to hide obviously don't care about their own privacy and care even less about their own freedom.

      Don't you think that there should be limitations to government power in a free society?
      sissy sue
    • Fishing Expedition

      Just because YOU don't have anything to hide; however, even if you do nothing illegal does not stop police from fishing for information that can and will be used against you. If you get pulled over for a minor violation, the cops will check to see if there are any warrants out for you, ask questions that are unrelated to the stop and try to search your car.

      If you indulge this behavior then you just might find out why you can have your reputation wrecked even though you don't have anything to hide. Research Richard Jewell, a security guard at the Olympic park who found a back pack with explosives and was very helpful in evacuating the are. He became a target of investigators and publicly tried in the court of opinion before the real criminal was identified. Jewell was not able to clear his name well enough and committed suicide.
      • I believe you should check the facts.

        You are quite correct with regard to unrestricted use of information and how incorrect information can indeed be a problem. But I believe you need to read up on the reason Richard Jewell actually died. He was exhonorated completely, and the media did indeed do some soul searching for their part in the story, but it would appear that Richard Jewell died of natural causes, not commiting suicide. It had more to do with on going health problems, but there is nothing to say that the stress was a contributory factor in his health problems.
    • really?

      Do you do illegal drugs at home? Of course not. So you have nothing to hide, right? I guess you wouldn't mind if the Feds put a camera in your bedroom so they can be sure you're not breaking any laws. Andf of course we should trust them to only use the pictures to verify that you aren't breaking any laws.

  • is hate speech a crime?

    i don't have a face book account. but from what i believe to be true, is that face book is serious about protecting the information it has gathered (with the exception of using blanket data for advertising revenue).

    but to this end, as long as the information is pursuant to a true crime, then i don't think anyone has a problem with the feds demanding data from face book - as long as the crime does not hinder freedom of speech or expression or privacy.

    perhaps, the gray area is when freedom of speech and expression and privacy is related to bullying or hate crimes.

    however, when it comes to bullying and hate crimes, i think everyone has a social obligation to squash the haters free speech and bring justice to the victims.

    is hate speech protected by the constitution?
    • re: Is hate speecch a crime?

      DatabaseBen asked:
      "however, when it comes to bullying and hate crimes, i think everyone has a social obligation to squash the haters free speech and bring justice to the victims.
      "is hate speech protected by the constitution? "

      I agree with you about making hate speech socially unacceptable.
      In answer to your question, however, the answer seems to be "Yes and No". There are some laws against it, with varying definitions, in some states -- but as far as I know it IS protected by the Constitution.
      If I want to say that redheads I was born one!) are inherently evil, being descended from Lilith rather than Eve, then any attempt to convict me of a crime for saying that would have to yield to the First Amendment. Far more effective for people to mock me for being so stupid as to believe such a thing, and denounce me in editorials and in sermons, and perhaps picket me and boycott my business.
  • Facebook Document Cover Page

    "The intended recipient is REQUESTED to handle the provided information in accordance with THEIR ORGANIZATION'S protocol for handling sensitive or confidential material"

    Good luck.
  • PDF + ZIP

    Here is what Facebook sends the cops in response to a subpoena:
  • Common Sense should rule your content

    Planning to rob a bank, or ship your latest crop of weed to a friend in Ohio? Put that info on any web page, anywhere, and you will be an overnight viral celebrity. Same goes for any comments about your ex-gf , or boss, or teacher, or even your back-stabbing friend. Rule #1 : Don't be stupid! If You can't say it to their face , in a public place, it shouldn't go online. As for your own personal info that any reputable service needs to identify you ; that can all be found in public records : just ask a local private eye. Rule #2 : Don't want a paper trail ? - Don't drive - don't vote - don't get a Social Security number - don't own a house ... etc...
  • nothing to hide? we'll just see about that

    Hey, "nothing to hide" you budding fascist. you have just inspired me to instigate a class action lawsuit on Facebook. not so much for the expedient selling of your soul
    but for the soulless creeps who could condone the dystopian pseudo morality of your nothing to hide.

    You would toss out the dignity of privacy for your Paranoiac penchant for a police state I've had enough. You may have nothing to hide but Ill be damned if such sickness is construed as a virtue in hiding.

    who are you? whats your address? tell us every single dirty detail. No. scrap that. lets just have you actually be the one in the search lights because right or wrong you sound crazy to me. Therefore I think you might agree, I should report your beyond merely suspicious but self proclaimed anti privacy/human dignity dangerous fanaticism. yes, i do think they should keep a close eye on you indefinitely just to make sure that you are as dangerous as you profess to be.

    I'm livid
    • You're livid? Be sure to see a doctor for those purple spots!

      Characters like you are a dime a dozen. You lost the argument by invoking Fascist/Nazi namecalling (see 'Godwin's Law'). You likely have no appreciation of the repulsive history behind that devious practice, but it does help others identify raving fools more quickly, so we thank you for that.
      Lib Thrasher
  • hide this somewhere

    it's not about free speech or catching real criminals. its about giving up all privacy
    and getting free access to anyone anytime just to make sure you aren't guilty of whatever may subsequently not be found.

    i dont believe the world is quite so dangerous as yet to be giving up so much so casually with a self righteous nod of "nothing to hide" You sir are not your big brothers keeper. Not on my f-ing watch.

    just how many actual dangerous criminals being caught is the very notion and realityof privacy worth? 100? 1000? 10,000?

    just think (or suspect if you prefer) if we just throw everyone in jail right now, there
    would be no crime. not in the jails anyway.

    nothing to hide. oh yes you do. believe me.
    you'll hide it. you'll hide it the moment you think it really might be found. but until then, you are right. you have nothing to hide.

    tell it to Anne Frank.
    you.... never mind
    • Speaking of Anne Frank ...

      Too bad the NRA wasn't very strong in Western Europe in those days, wouldn't you agree? Suppose everywhere in lands controlled by the Germans there was a long history of gun possession and the populace was well armed.

      Under those conditions, just how eager do you think SS soldiers would have been to track down Jews and drag them off to concentration camps?

      But I'll bet you flip out when you read about a few innocent people killed by gun-toting kooks.
      Lib Thrasher
  • Hi Dear

    Hi Dear
    my name is Janifer williems, am 23 years old girl,
    How are you today? i hope all is well with you, because it is my great pleasure to contact you today to have communication with you from today, please i will like to have the desire with me so we can get to know each other better and see what will happens in the future.
    I will be very happy if you can write me through my email so that i can send you my pictures( ) to facilitate communication so that we know,i will send you my pictures and details about me, hope to hear from you. waiting for your response and I wish you all the best.Yours new friend Janifer