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Federal Agents Quietly Using Social Media 171

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 calibre-not-output ( 1736770 ) on Tuesday March 16, 2010 @04:48PM (#31501184) Homepage
    If you need a leaked document to know that spies are spying, you fail at life. Obviously information-gathering agencies will deploy personnel wherever there are large amounts of potentially useful information to be gathered.
  • I'd hope so. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mekkah ( 1651935 ) on Tuesday March 16, 2010 @04:50PM (#31501200) Journal
    If you are making your information publicly available, wouldn't you expect your government to take advantage of it?

    Hint: Don't accept friend requests from someone named, Uncle Sam, Uncle Sammy, or that super model that wants to know where you live and were Saturday night between 10pm and 2 am.

    Oh and don't tweet if you're gonna lie about it later to police.
  • Also.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by e2d2 ( 115622 ) on Tuesday March 16, 2010 @04:54PM (#31501260)

    They can also meet you at a bar and pretend they want some coke. A fucking travesty of justice I tell you.

  • by captaindomon ( 870655 ) on Tuesday March 16, 2010 @04:55PM (#31501268)
    How is this different than what the FBI does offline? It's just an online version of an offline undercover sting, right?
  • Good (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SoupGuru ( 723634 ) on Tuesday March 16, 2010 @04:57PM (#31501304)
    If they weren't doing something like this, I'd wonder what the hell was wrong with them.
  • Re:I'd hope so. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lxt ( 724570 ) on Tuesday March 16, 2010 @04:58PM (#31501314) Journal
    Exactly. People who are stupid enough to fall for it deserve what they get.

    This isn't the government going behind your back, putting you under covert surveillance. It's completely in the open. A friend of mine used to work for the MA state police, in the computer forensics unit. He was amazed at the number of gang members who would just openly accept his friend request on Facebook, which would lead to him quietly beavering away to figure out the social network of the gang, where they met, what they got up to. Sneaky? Perhaps, but not illegal.

    Really, people are just plain stupid.

  • Re:I'd hope so. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Ethanol-fueled ( 1125189 ) * on Tuesday March 16, 2010 @05:00PM (#31501346) Homepage Journal
    Probably means that there's a shortage of real crooks like terrorists and spies, so the feds have to do something to justify their elephantine budgets and keep their bust-numbers high.

    Hey, ICE? Hi, this is Agent Smith from the FBI and I'm calling to report a MySpace profile featuring a black guy with gold chains and a new car that he probably stole from some hapless old lady. Can you go pick 'him up for me? Warrants? Nah, if the judge asks just say that the guy's an illegal alien or he's downloading music or somethin'. On your way? Thanks.
  • by surmak ( 1238244 ) on Tuesday March 16, 2010 @05:07PM (#31501430)

    I don't see a problem as long as they are not doing anything that any other user can do. If they lie to you to get you to accept them as a friend, or browse public data, that is perfectly OK.

    On the other hand, I would have problem if they get access to the database, or otherwise bypass the user-managed access control/privacy features. I would also have a problem if they developed a Facebook app and tricked a suspect into running it. (apps can have more access to your profile than friends do.)

  • Re:I'd hope so. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by betterunixthanunix ( 980855 ) on Tuesday March 16, 2010 @05:11PM (#31501486)
    However, the government should not be taking advantage of stupidity to undermine our rights. It is one thing for an agent to communicate with people who are already under investigation -- such as with your state police friend who communicates with gang members -- but it is an entirely different story when the government starts randomly probing into people's lives. The line is very, very fine here...
  • Re:I'd hope so. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 16, 2010 @05:20PM (#31501564)

    You have the right to remain silent. Use it! If you give up that right anything you say can and will be used against you. Nothing you say will help you. Clam up.

  • Re:I'd hope so. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dog-Cow ( 21281 ) on Tuesday March 16, 2010 @05:23PM (#31501614)

    We're not talking about the police asking Facebook to hand over server storage so they can browse at their leisure. We're talking about government agents using Facebook or Twitter the exact same way that you or I would use it. There's nothing wrong with that.

    I suppose that it's possible someone could have an issue with possible entrapment, but I can't see where there's a privacy issue just because you don't think the stranger whose invite you accepted might be a cop.

  • Re:Also.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Thinboy00 ( 1190815 ) <> on Tuesday March 16, 2010 @05:27PM (#31501648) Journal

    Hint: Don't friend random strangers on Facebook et al.

  • Re:I'd hope so. (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 16, 2010 @05:38PM (#31501772)

    Is it illegal to violate the TOS?

    "You will not provide any false personal information on Facebook, or create an account for anyone other than yourself without permission."

    I don't know; just wonderin'.....

  • by DJRumpy ( 1345787 ) on Tuesday March 16, 2010 @06:07PM (#31502142)

    You joke on this, but what is the difference between an agent questioning you in real life and online? They are required to identify themselves in person, are they not? Why should online be any different?

  • Re:Also.. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anachragnome ( 1008495 ) on Tuesday March 16, 2010 @07:08PM (#31502782)

    "Hint: Don't friend random strangers on Facebook et al."

    While that is good advice, it can be refined some...

    Hint: Don't use Facebook at all.

  • by KahabutDieDrake ( 1515139 ) on Tuesday March 16, 2010 @08:31PM (#31503496)
    They may lie, but they aren't supposed to forge documents. They also aren't granted carte blanche to break TOS and therefore "hack" into any website they like. Does Facebook grant a TOS exception for law enforcement? It is still against the law to gain access to a computer through fraud isn't it? Yeah... how about that, it turns out written law isn't the only law. I'm shocked, how about you?
  • Re:Warrant (Score:4, Insightful)

    by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) * on Tuesday March 16, 2010 @09:41PM (#31503896) Journal

    And before anyone flames me for warrant-less wiretapping by the NSA, that was an illegal act and they got burned hard for it.

    Is that why warrantless wire-tapping continues?

    FISA is still the law of the land. The PATRIOT Act is still the law of the land.

    If you ever want to be chilled to the bone, read the PATRIOT Act. You can do it in just a few hours.

    By the way, it's worth noting that the renewal of the PATRIOT Act was passed using the same type of "deem and pass" legislative maneuver that is now being used by the democrats in the House of Representatives to pass health care. Funny how it wasn't that big a deal back then. The argument is that the PATRIOT Act wasn't as big a deal as health reform.

    Considering PATRIOT allows unidentifiable law enforcement agencies to arrest and detain you without identifying themselves or giving you any Miranda rights, I'm inclined to disagree. But that's just me.

  • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) * on Tuesday March 16, 2010 @09:51PM (#31503956) Journal

    Police are allowed to lie.

    Not only are they allowed to lie, but there are absolutely no penalties, civil or criminal, to prosecutors who knowingly frame you, according to a Supreme Court case last year.

    Let that sink in...prosecutors are immune from any penalties for knowingly framing someone.

    Thank you, Justices Roberts, Scalia, Alito, Thomas and Kennedy.

Today is the first day of the rest of your lossage.