How Safe Is Your Facebook Info From The Feds?

Newly released documents under the Freedom of Information Act reveal not just the Justice Department’s guidelines for how to use social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter for investigative purposes, but which ones are the most friendly to their requests for access to user info.

In the slides of what appears to be a DOJ PowerPoint presentation from Aug. 2009 titled “Obtaining and Using Evidence from Social Networking Sites,” the major social networking sites are examined for their utility and tendency to cooperate.

Facebook is described as “Often cooperative with emergency requests.”

MySpace “requires a search warrant for private messages/bulletins less than 181 days old.”

Under the Twitter heading, they list the “good news” that “most Twitter content is public,” but then go on to list several bits of “bad news” like “Stated policy of producing data only in response to legal process” and “no contact phone number.”

And while the DOJ had very little to say about getting info from LinkedIn, they do point out that the business-centric network “can be used to identify experts” and to “check background of defense experts.” Which is kind of scary, considering how they also point out that “profile information is not checked for reliability.”

Also of interest is the section on Legal and Practice Issues. Under the heading of “Knowledge is power,” they suggest investigators “Research ALL witnesses on social-networking sites.”

Speaking of witnesses, the DOJ reminds everyone that “Social networking and the courtroom can be a dangerous combination,” and urges caution when friending judges or defense counsel.

EFF Posts Documents Detailing Law Enforcement Collection of Data From Social Media Sites [Electronic Frontier Foundation]