US law enforcement agencies increasingly obtaining Facebook warrants

US law enforcement agencies increasingly obtaining Facebook warrants

Summary: Facebook is increasingly being used as a search warrant tool by US law enforcement agencies according to a new report.

SHARE:
18

US law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, DEA, and ICE, are increasingly obtaining warrants to search Facebook. Not only do they gain access to Facebook accounts, but it often occurs without the user's knowledge. Personal data obtained can include messages, status updates, links to videos and photographs, calendars of future and past events, Wall postings, and even rejected friend requests.

More specifically, a review of the Westlaw legal database shows that since 2008, federal judges have authorized at least two dozen warrants to search individuals' Facebook accounts, and federal agencies have been granted at least 11 warrants since the beginning of 2011, nearly double the number for all of 2010. None of the warrants discovered in the review have been challenged on the grounds of violating a person's Fourth Amendment protection against unlawful search and seizure, possibly because the defendants – not to mention the profiles of their Facebook friends that might have been viewed as part of an investigation – never knew about them.

The precise number of warrants served on Facebook is hard to determine because some records are sealed and warrant applications often involve unusual case names, according to Reuters. At the same time, Facebook won't reveal how many warrants are served on the company.

The warrants typically demand a user's "Neoprint" and "Photoprint" from Facebook. The social network uses these terms, which appear in manuals for law enforcement agencies on how to request data from Facebook, to describe a detailed package of one's profile information and photos.

By law, neither a company nor the government is obliged to inform a user when an account is subject to a search by law enforcement. The difference is that social networks like Facebook have a huge amount of information about their users. Because of this, the government may have to change its rules one day when it comes to the search of electronic data.

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.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

18 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • that's a good reason to switch to google

    where your data is safe, sound and away from the eyes of the peeping Toms.
    Linux Geek
    • If you would read EULA, then it is about as bad as Facebook's; and, Google

      @Linux Geek: ... is subject of USA's laws as any other USA-based company, including Facebook.

      So if you would want to be safe of "Patriot act" use other social services like vk.com (110 million users and counting).
      DDERSSS
      • RE: US law enforcement agencies increasingly obtaining Facebook warrants

        @DeRSSS
        google will not roll over and give up your data. They are good citizens not snitches!
        Linux Geek
    • RE: US law enforcement agencies increasingly obtaining Facebook warrants

      @Linux Geek Google is also legally obligated to provide the government with any of your information, provided a warrant is issued. They also do not need to inform you. There really is no difference. The only place your data is safe is in your mind.
      shodiwarmic
      • RE: US law enforcement agencies increasingly obtaining Facebook warrants

        @shodiwarmic

        Google has a policy of informing the user that information is being requested. That way, the authorities will think twice before trying to get you, since you WILL know.
        czorrilla
    • RE: US law enforcement agencies increasingly obtaining Facebook warrants

      @Linux Geek Inside your head and only then if they dont get you to shrink
      cymru999
    • RE: US law enforcement agencies increasingly obtaining Facebook warrants

      @Linux Geek

      If you want to be safe you don't use Social Network sites. Its that simple...anything else can be hacked or abused by governments.
      Rob.sharp
    • RE: US law enforcement agencies increasingly obtaining Facebook warrants

      @Linux Geek Google will comply with all legal requests. They may possibly inform you though if they can...
      snoop0x7b
  • That's great.

    If the government wants to go after to you, it just has to tap into Facebook, and gain access to a wealth of information on you. If sinister people want to go after you, instead of using a warrant, they can just use a hacker, and obtain the same information the government obtains. As the saying goes, "Those who don't learn from history, are destined to repeat it." Blabbing your business to the world has always had consequences, and it always will.
    P. Douglas
  • Reality

    We all here need sit like we have the 'blood of a king', just to enjoy what we are seeing from the seat of government today.
    We have seen it with two major political parties...and I do not expect to be anythin g but what I was born as..."not guilty!"
    Even as I type...I can be sure that even using universal law which does supercede Laws in Washington DC...I must follow the legitimate law...not the laws of the agencies mentioned in the article.(That's for sure!)
    gradkiss
  • RE: US law enforcement agencies increasingly obtaining Facebook warrants

    Easy, don't put all your info out there anywhere.
    Especially if you are up to something stupid or drawing attention to yourself.
    But then being stupid and doing stupid things go hand in hand.
    MoeFugger
  • RE: US law enforcement agencies increasingly obtaining Facebook warrants

    @ czorrilla- really? By your logic no law-enforcement agency would EVER obtain and use a warrant because they're so very frightened of the targeted person being "aware" of the warrant. Yeah, that works in the offline world too, doesn't it. Get a clue, friend; you DON'T scare them away from an investigation just by knowing you're being investigated (unless perhaps you're so very special they don't dare investigate you).
    xplorer1959
  • Why should social media be special?

    If law enforcement can get a warrant for your bank records, why should you be surprised if they can get one for your Facebook contents? And any company subject to US law is obligated to comply.
    mdwalls
  • RE: US law enforcement agencies increasingly obtaining Facebook warrants

    I think I value my privacy too much, which is why I've basically stopped using Facebook and am looking forward to using Google + - if/when it ever becomes public......
    kentuckywoman2
    • Read the EULA and ToS

      @kentuckywoman2 You'll see that Google+ will also release your data when issued a warrant for it. They MUST under US law. Hopefully, unless specifically barred from doing so, they will let you know that they have done so and why.

      Face it; your post here can be accessed by the government, should they wish to see it, just by issuing a warrant to ZDnet and it WILL be released. Whether ZDnet tells you it's happened or not is COMPANY policy and not LEGALLY required.

      The PATRIOT Act basically shredded the Bill of Rights. Privacy is not legally protected and that Act ensured it will never be unless it is repealed and laws, or a constitutional amendment, are passed to protect us. And that WON'T happen. Our government cannot afford to have informed and protected citizens. It would take away all the power that have accumulated. That's all politics is about in the entire world, not just here. Power and Money. Those that naively believe that your elected officials represent YOU are in for a rude awakening some day. They represent the MONEY that got them elected, i.e., Corporate America. I've always said that politicians should be required to wear NASCAR-type uniforms for all public appearances. That way we can immediately see who their corporate sponsors are. I bet their won't be a single one with "We the people..." as a sponsor. But, if I'm wrong, THAT particular patch would be sewn to their butts to show what they think of us.

      And don't go all "Leftist" / "Rightest" on me! I said "politicians", not any particular party. They all s*ck.
      xffcapt01
  • RE: US law enforcement agencies increasingly obtaining Facebook warrants

    Expect that anything typed into a machine can and will be read by your spouse, boss, grandparents, kids, and law enforcement; and you'll be fine :)
    Gritztastic
  • RE: US law enforcement agencies increasingly obtaining Facebook warrants

    I really enjoyed reading this post !!!have bookmarked <a href="http://mlbshopgiants.com/">w</a><a href="http://best3dtvavailable.com/">e</a><a href="http://lampsplusstorelocator.com/">b</a><a href="http://discountperfumewebsites.com/">s</a> will come back to read more.
    JOYCEwe
  • RE: US law enforcement agencies increasingly obtaining Facebook warrants

    I think the peoples personal informaton are not safe in face book. Sometimes the agencies does not make the right use of their data. I am scott M. Anderson and my office is<a href="http://www.metrodetroitlawfirm.com"> Detroit Lawyer</a>
    detroitlaw