What Facebook Shares With the Cops

Here's an old article from the Boston Phoenix about the Craigslist killer that I stumbled upon while researching something else. Remember that video, "Never talk to the cops?" Well, if you're posting on Facebook, you may as well be talking to the cops.

- snip -

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: 

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read the whole story at the Boston Phoenix

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