EFF: The IRS and FBI are looking for you on Facebook

EFF: The IRS and FBI are looking for you on Facebook

Summary: The EFF has obtained documents through a Freedom of Information Act request that describe how the FBI and IRS use social media websites to investigate persons of interest.


The Electronic Freedom Foundation has obtained documents through a Freedom of Information Act request that describe how the FBI and IRS use social media websites to investigate persons of interest. The EFF team has learned that several U.S. federal agencies have implemented training courses on how to create fake profiles and search for information using the websites while keeping their real identity secret. The EFF press release suggests that the agencies are taking extensive precautions in using these techniques;

The IRS should be commended for its detailed training that clearly prohibits employees from using deception or fake social networking accounts to obtain information. Its policies generally limit employees to using publicly available information. The good example set by the IRS is in stark contrast to the U.S. Marshalls and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Neither organization found any documents on social networking sites in response to EFF's request suggesting they do not have any written policies or restrictions upon the use of these websites.

The EFF team continues to collect more documents and information on how the Agencies infiltrating social media websites.

Additional Privacy resources:

EFF: Smart meters pose threat to privacy

Social media privacy: Insurance companies want access to your Facebook

How did Congress pass extension of U.S. Patriot Act? Ask your doctor

Report: Lower Merion School Board was proactively spying on students

Topics: Social Enterprise, Browser, Collaboration, Government, Government US, Software Development

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  • You Timothy McVeighs: Relax!

    If you're one of those criminals -- or terrorists -- stupid enough to reveal on a social networking site the same stuff you would talking with someone in private, [i]don't worry about the authorities![/i] The EFF is there to make sure none of your gaffes are sniffed out by those overzealous federal agents. So go ahead and brag to the chicks about your latest plot to blow up a building!
    • Moronicity?

      Yes, the EFF's mission is to protect criminals. It's right there in the name: EFF = Every Fanatic's Friend.

      Meanwhile, whereas criminals are not supposed to be allowed to use fake profiles to engage in criminal activity (it is a violation of terms of use), the FBI is allowed to use fake profiles at will. This is perfectly fair. Besides, we need the FBI there to protect us from stupid annoying cousin #3 and Aunt Mabel's veiled criticisms.
    • Wrong-way corrigan

      Yet again another macho wannabee misses the point: At what point do you say American government can go "this far" without negating the freedom which distinguishes us from a totalitarian government? Is it OK to listen in on my telephone conversation? How about reading my USPS mail? How about my eMail? How about a roadside stop by state police? How about "un-profiling" at the airport for a strip-search? How about knocking on my door and checking out the contents of my house? How about a mandatory drug test each morning?
      There ARE many substantial questions which need to be dealt with, but the previous by "jocko" misses them all.
      • Since when is Facebook private?

        Your phone conversations, e-mail, USPS mail, your HOUSE, etc. [b]are private[/b], and presumed to be so in court. The feds would need a warrant to pry. But what you say on Facebook for all the world to see is fair game... for all the world, including the feds.
      • How about??

        How about the Fact Obowma has just gone ahead in his own and signed an executive order. Now the Individual States have no Control of there National Guard. Read the writing on the wall it is real easy reading!
    • Why McVeigh?

      Why not refer to Richard Reed (the "shoe bomber") or the underware bomber, or any of a number of current and real terrorist threats?

      Oh yes, it's PC to be afraid of allegedly right-wing extremist whackos (and I confess to being more than a little miffed when the federal gov't massively violated American *citizens* rights at the Waco Massacre, myself), but shhh don't even suggest at hinting that fundamentalist Moslems have a track record of killing innocent westerners, particularly Americans.

      No, it's those fundamentalist Christians, and the "Minutemen"-like militias who want the U.S. secured and the Constitution obeyed, and who've never harmed anyone that are the ones who need to be investigated on Facebook et al.

      Oh, wait... McVeigh wasn't a fundamentalist Christian, nor a "Minuteman".

      Oh, well, don't let that stop you. Close your eyes to the Islamic threat and pretend its those evil Christians (y'know, the ones who founded and built the U.S.) that are the dangerous Believers.

      (FYI, I was two miles away from the Murrah bombing and was awakened by the blast, and might have lost both my parents that day. In case anyone thinks I'm actually *defending* McVeigh; I have no love for the PoS).
      • I agree.

        I used McVeigh only as an example. My post applies to any moron who reveals on a social network his plans to blow something up.
        • However, crime is at an infectuous level today...

          The criminals don't mind who they attack: grandma, mother, babies,or an ailing priest. So, I have no problem with law enforcement having a leg up on criminals. One more thing, I don't really care of which ilk the criminal posesses, because you are just as dead regardless of belief. Criminals believe in crime!
  • Facebook is a datamining gold mine

    For pretty much every agencies, if the CIA and/or NSA didnt set it up, I would be surprised.
    Tommy S.
    • It is what I have covered in my blog about Chinese hackers

      IRS or FBI? How about KGB (or current FSB)? The fact is that people are so naive that they don't think about implications of posting personal data and pictures on the Internet. I am not exaggerating. Facebook is the most popular web site (even more than Google in accordance to the latest data). With 300+ millions of accounts it's a perfect place to hack and grab the data to build a database of people based on their interests, place of work, sexual orientation, etc. This is where you can find the candidates for any hostile activities planned ahead, or, as it is in the case with IRS/FBI, investigate certain people and their sources of income.
      If you have 25 min spare to read the article about Chinese hackers where I have covered this issue in the Part I (of III) (securecyber.blogspot.com).
      • And, even knowing this, many wants to go to the clouds?? nt

  • So, someone does care ...

    About your every waking thought.

  • RE: EFF: The IRS and FBI are looking for you on Facebook

    Pretty soon they'll send cameras up your toilet to take pictures of your sphincter and put it in a database. The records will be called "Sphincter prints". They can kiss mine!
  • RE: EFF: The IRS and FBI are looking for you on Facebook

    Wow it's great living under the left, the freedoms keep expanding under Obama, freedom for the Government anyway
  • RE: EFF: The IRS and FBI are looking for you on Facebook

    You people have to be kidding...so the alpha-bet soup looks at your facebook....uhm...WHO CARES!?! They aren't tapping your phone. They aren't watching you through the television. No, they are reading stuff you post on teh interwebs and make publicly available...oh, the atrocities! What an invasion of privacy!

    Setting up a fake profile to glean public information from the Facebook or MySpace or Twitter or whatever, is no different than some agent chatting someone up in a bar to get that info...except it's quicker...and Agent JimmyJoe JimBob can come across as Agent Bambi McBewbs.

    If you folks have any reasonable expectation of privacy in the cloud and on teh interwebs..well...I guess you get what you deserve.
  • so don't post incriminating information

    Honestly, is anybody surprised that law enforcement uses social networking sites to cull information? And Craigslist and backpage and the IRS probably tallies up all your sales on eBay too.

  • I am NOT surprise!

    They finally admited, or the info leaked !

    This is why I will NEVER use such things. ;-)
  • RE: EFF: The IRS and FBI are looking for you on Facebook

    ANYBODY that posts Anything sensitive on something like facebook will eventually get what they deserve. As others have pointed out it is the modern equivalent to the old-fashioned public bulletin board. It is out in the public view, if you are stupid enough to post anything sensitive or incriminating & get nailed it is Nobodies fault but your own. Might as well brag about something illegal you have done or give out your personal financial data on a open radio like a CB & then wonder how you were found out.
  • RE: EFF: The IRS and FBI are looking for you on Facebook

    I am appalled at how few people who post against our
    current government have even a modicum of apparent
    education. I've rarely seen such atrocious spelling and
    grammar.... Please people, if you want to complain....acquire
    some education before you go on an attack ... It will really
    increase your argument's effectiveness. It is very hard to
    take seriously anyone who can't spell or speak our language
    • You, or I, might be wrong?

      If you base the intelligence of a person on the spelling, and not the content of the message, that might be a bit condescending. This Country is made up of immigrants that although have not had the opportunity of a higher education, and might have lived under the oppressing governments, that you might not have had the misfortune to experience.
      Does a piece of paper make you smart? Give me an bad spelling elderly person that has lived long enough to record the changes in this Country trough tribulations and successes, and I will lend them an ear.
      Give me a young well educated person, that now days learn all from leftist indoctrination centers, and who thinks they know it all because of a piece of paper hung on the wall, and I wont be so apt to listen. The most important thing to have is COMMON SENSE, this is only acquired with the passing of time, by noticing the difference it brings, something that that paper on the wall cannot achieve. Forgets the spelling and try to be human enough to understand the meaning of the message. Something else you might reflect on, is the fact that many of those bad spelling people, might have obtained a bunch of those papers in their Country. It might make them smart, but still not helpful in spelling. Being one of those immigrants, I'm glad the spell check works. Just a thought I wanted to share, and I also recognize to fact that I might be wrong.