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Federal Agents Quietly Using Social Media 171

Posted by kdawson
from the friend-of-the-devil dept.
SpuriousLogic passes along this excerpt from the ChiTrib: "The Feds are on Facebook. And MySpace, LinkedIn, and Twitter, too. US law enforcement agents are following the rest of the Internet world into popular social-networking services, going undercover with false online profiles to communicate with suspects and gather private information, according to an internal Justice Department document that offers a tantalizing glimpse of issues related to privacy and crime-fighting. ... The document... makes clear that US agents are already logging on surreptitiously to exchange messages with suspects, identify a target's friends or relatives and browse private information such as postings, personal photographs, and video clips. Among other purposes: Investigators can check suspects' alibis by comparing stories told to police with tweets sent at the same time about their whereabouts. Online photos from a suspicious spending spree... can link suspects or their friends to robberies or burglaries." The FoIA lawsuit was filed by the EFF, which has posted two documents obtained from the action, from the DoJ and Internal Revenue (more will be coming later). The rights group praises the IRS for spelling out limitations and prohibitions on deceptive use of social media by its agents — unlike the DoJ. The US Marshalls and the BATFE could not find any documents related to the FoIA request, so presumably they have no guidelines or prohibitions in this area.
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Federal Agents Quietly Using Social Media

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 16, 2010 @04:52PM (#31501230)

    Are these deceptive profiles in violation of the Terms of Service for the various social networks?

    Wasn't that part of the basis for prosecuting Lori Drew? (I realize they threw that out)
    http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2009/07/drew_court/ [wired.com]

  • Re:alibis (Score:2, Informative)

    by Nos. (179609) <andrew@@@thekerrs...ca> on Tuesday March 16, 2010 @05:06PM (#31501400) Homepage

    No, the tweet (or whatever) likely isn't proof, but it does given the authorities reason to investigate further. If you're a suspect, and answered questions one way, and posted to facebook that you were doing something completely different, its worth investigating the discrepancy. ie: You told the police you were home in bed, but you're friends' facebook pages all say you were out partying... well, its worth going to talk to your friends.

  • by Monkeedude1212 (1560403) on Tuesday March 16, 2010 @06:19PM (#31502262) Journal

    Why should a cop who is being deceptive while investigating one suspect suddenly be allowed to access people, perhaps 100's or 1000's who may or may not be involved in any way?

    Are you saying an offline undercover cop should be a blind idiot and focus ONLY on the ONE person associated with selling drugs, and not the supplier of the drugs, or the purchasers? Then whats the point of going undercover?

    This is no different. If you know a Drug Dealer, everyone the drug dealer associates with is suspect, that is just the way it works. Hey, the dealers wife might not know he deals drugs, she might be completely innocent, or she could be the brain behind the whole operation, regardless, the cops have to look into it, otherwise they'll get nowhere.

  • by amicusNYCL (1538833) on Tuesday March 16, 2010 @06:21PM (#31502286)

    They are required to identify themselves in person, are they not?

    No, they're not.

    Why should online be any different?

    It shouldn't.

    source [erowid.org]

    Are Police Allowed to Lie?
    The question of whether or not the police may lie during the course of their work goes hand in hand with the question of entrapment.

    It is well accepted that deception is often "necessary" to catch those who break the law. There is no question that police officers are allowed to directly mislead and/or deceive others about their identity, their law enforcement status, their history, and just about anything else, without breaking the law or compromising their case. Conversely, it is illegal for an ordinary citizen to lie to the police in many jurisdictions.

  • by CPE1704TKS (995414) on Tuesday March 16, 2010 @09:58PM (#31503998)

    Who is surprised that the Feds are using Facebook??

    Does anyone not realize that they are mining all the photos on Facebook, Flickr, Picasa, etc, for pictures of people, and cross-referencing them based on tags? Talk about a wealth of photos that can be used to definitively identify a person.

    If you have been tagged on any photo on Facebook, most likely you are already in the Fed's database, as well as the ability to recognize your face as well. Walk anywhere near a camera, and those cameras can instantly use facial recognition to figure out your name, age, etc, simply based on freely available information from these social networks.

    Privacy is dead.

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