US cops addicted to Facebook data

US coppers are getting warrants for detailed access to users’ Facebook accounts without their knowledge.

According to Reuters, since 2008, federal judges have authorised at least two dozen warrants to search individuals’ Facebook accounts to the FBI, DEA and ICE. The investigations range from arson to rape to terrorism.

Facebook gives the cops a detailed package of profile and photo information that is not even available to users themselves.

It looks like the cops are getting so addicted to the amount of useful data that they can get from these profiles that they are hitting the courts for more warrants. Federal agencies were granted at least 11 warrants to search Facebook since the beginning of 2011, double the number for all of 2010.

However, that figure may be much higher becase some records are sealed.

Facebook’s chief security officer, Joe Sullivan, told Reuters that Facebook was sensitive to user privacy and that it regularly pushes back against law-enforcement “fishing expeditions”.

But Reuters hacks found that none of the warrants discovered in the review have been challenged on the grounds that it violated a person’s Fourth Amendment protection against unlawful search and seizure.

This is alarming constitutional-law experts who think this is because the defendants and their “friends” never knew about them.

Neither Facebook nor the government is obliged to inform a user when an account is subject to a search by law enforcement.

Twitter and several other social-media sites have formally adopted a policy to notify users when law enforcement asks to search their profile, and have been successful at challenging gag orders.

Facebook does not appear to be too keen about doing this. In two recent cases information was certainly not passed on. Last year, several weeks after police arrested four “satanists” for burning down a church in Pomeroy, Ohio, an FBI agent executed a search warrant on Facebook seeking data about two of the suspects. The defendant’s lawyers were not told about the search.

In another case, the DEA searched the Facebook account of Nathan Kuemmerle, a Hollywood shrink who ran a “pill mill” for celebs.

At his bail hearing, a Redondo Beach police detective used comments Kuemmerle made on Facebook and in the site’s popular game Mafia Wars to argue that he should be denied bail.

When Kuemmerle’s lawyer, John Littrell, asked the detective his source, the copper muttered something about the fact that it was from “an undercover source”. Littrell told Reuters that neither he nor his client knew about the warrant.