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Federal Agents Quietly Using Social Media

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the friend-of-the-devil dept.

Crime 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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171 comments

The snuke (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31501182)

All right, people, I'm in charge now and we will find the terrorists. Jarvis, I want you to check for any terrorist chatter on AOL. Marley and Greggs, try searching for nuclear devices on askjeeves.com

Is anyone surprised? (5, Insightful)

calibre-not-output (1736770) | more than 4 years ago | (#31501184)

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.

-or- Welcome to the internet (5, Funny)

pavon (30274) | more than 4 years ago | (#31501238)

Where the men are men, the women are men, and the little girls are FBI agents.

Re:-or- Welcome to the internet (1)

metlin (258108) | more than 4 years ago | (#31501512)

Funny, I remember reading that quote re: IRC, back in the day.

Re:-or- Welcome to the internet (2, Funny)

halcyon1234 (834388) | more than 4 years ago | (#31501676)

Funny, I remember reading that quote re: IRC, back in the day.

That wasn't a quote. That was an FBI agent.

Re:-or- Welcome to the internet (2, Funny)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 4 years ago | (#31501710)

"In those days spirits were brave, the stakes were high, men were REAL men, women were REAL women, and small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri were REAL small furry creatures from Aplha Centauri." - The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Re:Is anyone surprised? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31501272)

But they told me they weren't...

Re:Is anyone surprised? (2, Insightful)

DJRumpy (1345787) | more than 4 years ago | (#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:Is anyone surprised? (4, Informative)

amicusNYCL (1538833) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:Is anyone surprised? (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 4 years ago | (#31501320)

If you need a leaked document to know that spies are spying, you fail at espionage.

I think it was an overstatement to say "life" especially since, to me, facebook and other social networking sites are quite the opposite of life.

Re:Is anyone surprised? (1)

Chyeld (713439) | more than 4 years ago | (#31501394)

If you need a leaked document to know that spies are spying, you fail at espionage.

I think it was an overstatement to say "life" especially since, to me, facebook and other social networking sites are quite the opposite of life.

Ipso Facto...

Re:Is anyone surprised? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31501386)

A lot of people feel their right to privacy is being violated. The right to privacy, of course, is a protection from the government. If you share your whole life story on Facebook (et al) you can't have a reasonable expectation of privacy according to how case law is currently interpreted.

Federal agents can wait for you to send mail, and then examine that mail (ala Snail Mail). How and why is electronic delivery any different?

People tend to believe their right to privacy means equal protection among public or private corporations as well. On our service we have to look through user data at times to debug issues. Is it wrong for us to report a pedophile (for example) if we run across it? Wrong in the sense that that pedophile thought he had some reasonable expectation of privacy...

It's a strange line to walk on because it seems like you're teetering on the brink of the destruction of a very important protection given by our constitution (for those in the US). But I wouldn't have much guilt about putting a sicko away.

I'd hope so. (5, Insightful)

Mekkah (1651935) | more than 4 years ago | (#31501200)

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.

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

lxt (724570) | more than 4 years ago | (#31501314)

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. (1)

HungryHobo (1314109) | more than 4 years ago | (#31501428)

If they were going through some kind of back door to read peoples private messages on forums etc then I'm be against this but it looks like they're doing the equivalent of going and reading what you've posted up on the wall of the local community centre.

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

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 4 years ago | (#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. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#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. (4, Insightful)

Dog-Cow (21281) | more than 4 years ago | (#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:I'd hope so. (1)

linzeal (197905) | more than 4 years ago | (#31501674)

The difference being that a policeman can make accusations against that will bring legal charges. So when one person on Facebook friends a policeman why should all of his other friends be than subject to the Police investigating them? It would be like someone in a single apartment inviting in a cop so the police claim the right to search the whole building.

Re:I'd hope so. (4, Interesting)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 4 years ago | (#31501694)

No, we are talking about government agents create fake profiles for the purpose of extracting information from people and granting access to the profile to other agents, and then calling it an "undercover operation." It is the equivalent of a government agent convincing someone to give the agent a key to their home, so that law enforcement personnel can wander through their house and look through their things.

It is as much of a privacy issue as an FBI agent going undercover as a babysitter would be. If it is just a technique for finding information on people who are already suspects in a crime, it is a prudent method for gathering evidence; but if and when the situation changes and the government starts using these tactics against random people, just to see if crimes are being committed, then it is a serious invasion of privacy.

Re:I'd hope so. (1)

FroBugg (24957) | more than 4 years ago | (#31501684)

As someone else pointed out, this isn't just the collection of data in aggregate that can be sorted through later.

This kind of data collection is (relative to other digital data gathering, at least) fairly labor-intensive. Nobody from the FBI is going to pretend to be your friend on Facebook unless your name has already come to their attention for some other reason. You're not worth their time otherwise.

Now, whether they're investigating you because you've committed a crime or because you're a communist is another discussion entirely, but this worries me a hell of a lot less than, say, someone selling my info to spammers.

Re:I'd hope so. (4, Interesting)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 4 years ago | (#31501744)

What stops this process from being automated or performed en masse? There are chat bots that could carry on a conversation with a person long enough to convince the person to accept a friend request, and the government could then simply download the entire profile that the person posted -- and continue to receive updates, and all done automatically. It would not be trivial, but it is certainly conceivable that such an operation could be carried out by a large agency that employs expert programmers.

Re:I'd hope so. (1)

causality (777677) | more than 4 years ago | (#31501794)

This kind of data collection is (relative to other digital data gathering, at least) fairly labor-intensive. Nobody from the FBI is going to pretend to be your friend on Facebook unless your name has already come to their attention for some other reason. You're not worth their time otherwise.

That's the way all government investigation should be. Unless they have a good reason to believe you have committed a crime, your name should never come up and data about you should never be gathered. If they do have a good reason to believe you have committed a crime, the reason should be good enough that a judge will grant them a warrant. This is how you deal with crime without the extreme danger to society that unfettered police power represents.

Where this breaks down is when surveillance is so widespread and can be cheaply done on massive scales that the cops can go on fishing expeditions. At that point, it's not so much about whether you have something to hide, it's about what they want to find. This scenario has to take place first before people can easily be targeted and harassed because of their political views, opinions, religion, etc. If you don't want the police to be little more than state-sponsored thugs, then the goal is to prevent them from ever obtaining this capability. The idea that they can have this capability and any regulations about how they use it will be more than temporary speedbumps as we go down the road of the gradual erosion of civil rights is absurd and counter to any good reading of history.

Re:I'd hope so. (1)

Shotgun (30919) | more than 4 years ago | (#31501782)

However, the government should not be taking advantage of stupidity to undermine our rights.

Would someone please mod this "+1...World's Dumbest Criminal's Apologist"

Heh, betterunixthanunix, did you know that if you buy a car with $20K in small, unmarked bills, the police will consider you a person of interest and start an investigation on you?

Did you know that if you are in a gang, there might be policeman around you that look like normal people? They call themselves "undercover agents".

Did you know that the "young lady" that is asking you if you "want to party" could actually be an undercover policeman? Yeah, he could actually be in drag, but it might also be a policewoman.

The things that you do in public are not private. You have no right to privacy in public places. If you don't want to tell people that you're dealing drugs at the Grateful Dead Look-a-like concert, don't publicize on FACEBOOK that you're dealing drugs at the Grateful Dead Look-a-like concert.

Re:I'd hope so. (1)

causality (777677) | more than 4 years ago | (#31502230)

However, the government should not be taking advantage of stupidity to undermine our rights.

Would someone please mod this "+1...World's Dumbest Criminal's Apologist"

Heh, betterunixthanunix, did you know that if you buy a car with $20K in small, unmarked bills, the police will consider you a person of interest and start an investigation on you?

Did you know that if you are in a gang, there might be policeman around you that look like normal people? They call themselves "undercover agents".

Did you know that the "young lady" that is asking you if you "want to party" could actually be an undercover policeman? Yeah, he could actually be in drag, but it might also be a policewoman.

The things that you do in public are not private. You have no right to privacy in public places. If you don't want to tell people that you're dealing drugs at the Grateful Dead Look-a-like concert, don't publicize on FACEBOOK that you're dealing drugs at the Grateful Dead Look-a-like concert.

Had the GP said "the government should not be taking advantage of stupidity to catch criminals" your comment would make some sense. Since he did not say that, I must regard your comment as a knee-jerk emotional reaction. I saw nothing which indicated that the GP was an apologist for criminals.

In other words, it is possible to catch criminals without undermining civil rights. It is also possible to undermine civil rights without catching criminals. The desire that the police not violate or undermine civil rights is not nearly the same thing as the desire that the police stop trying to catch criminals. Your exasperated statements of the obvious won't change this. In fact, when you feel upset and along with that you feel a need to state the obvious in a debasing tone, that's a good time to stop and see if you might have misinterpreted something.

Re:I'd hope so. (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 4 years ago | (#31502244)

Friending someone on MyFaceJournal isn't really any different than an undercover officer striking up a conversation with them while they're picking up something at their local convenience store. They're in public with no expectation of privacy.

Re:I'd hope so. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31501580)

No, actually, this is the same idea that Police use to do what I firmly believe is violating their rights. Police will lie and intimidate to get folks to waive their rights, they rely on peoples' goodwill (yes, even criminals have some moral codes and goodwill, they vary, but most folks tend to believe in the "goodness" of others) and then deceive them.

People are being naive here, no question. But to say they deserve what they get is a cop out to me; if this is repugnant to you it may actually be immoral. Our law enforcement is happy to force the powerful's morals on us, we have every right to force our morals on them. If we believe this is wrong, regardless of it becoming public, we should speak out about it. Some clearly can be legal and wrong at the same time (the reverse is also true).

Re:I'd hope so. (1)

causality (777677) | more than 4 years ago | (#31501582)

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.

With all of the surveillance and wiretap capabilities they possess, the mandatory backdoors built into many telecommunications systems, and the willingness the feds have shown to use these without first obtaining warrants, I am almost surprised they bother doing this. It's old-fashioned policework, of the sort that seems to be going out of style as we keep approaching a surveillance society. It sounds like at least some of them recognize that when real crimes that harm real people are committed, no Orwellian powers are needed to deal with them.

I suppose for those reasons it's like you said: they are going after the dumber criminals. The kind who commit a crime and then brag about it in public because they can't keep their mouths shut are most likely to get nailed by this. I say good riddance to them. Gang members and other violent criminals are exactly what the police should prioritize. If they can do that using publically-available information obtainable at a low cost, so much the better.

I'm also glad that in this case, they are using their finite resources and personnel to go after people who do real harm instead of nonviolent adults who decide to alter their consciousness in unauthorized ways.

Re:I'd hope so. (1)

PPalmgren (1009823) | more than 4 years ago | (#31501604)

The criminal "profession" has an intelligence bias. Most intelligent people who contemplate crime realize the profit isn't much better than working a day job if you want to do it in a way that there is a very minimal chance of getting caught. "Well, I could make a living stealing things, but in order to steal x I need to recon for y hours, buy z tools, only do it n times every month per area, and be cautious in every aspect of my life. Shit, why don't I just start my own business instead?"

Re:I'd hope so. (1)

techno-vampire (666512) | more than 4 years ago | (#31501862)

The criminal "profession" has an intelligence bias. Most intelligent people who contemplate crime realize the profit isn't much better than working a day job if you want to do it in a way that there is a very minimal chance of getting caught.

Tell that to Lucky Luciano, Frank Costello or Meyer Lansky. I'm sure they'd be interested to know that running Organized Crime isn't as profitable as an honest job would have been.

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

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#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'.....

Re:I'd hope so. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31502240)

You are equating "stupidity" with somehow being deserving of having less rights and some weird lower standard of evidential procedure.

I smell an elitist mindset.

Throwing in a hey-look-at-this-extreme-case-that-justifies-it-all anecdote doesn't make the above statement untrue.

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

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 4 years ago | (#31501346)

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.

"Publicly available" (4, Funny)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 4 years ago | (#31501390)

Facebook is popular because its users believe that their information is not publicly available. Yes, it is a complete falsehood, but the reality of life is that most people do not realize just how public the information on Facebook really is, and that is why these sorts of activities are so problematic. We are supposed to live in a country where the government does not arbitrarily spy on its citizens, even for the purposes of law enforcement.

Well, yes, but it's not that clear cut ..... (1)

King_TJ (85913) | more than 4 years ago | (#31502228)

Why do people get so upset when they find out that H.R. departments are trying to comb MySpace or Facebook before hiring a candidate? Same idea, but simply a group trying to glean the data for a different purpose.

The thing is, yes - I fully realize law enforcement is going to make use of the tools available to them. If they can see my info on Facebook and they're interested in me, obviously they'll take a peek at it.

BUT, there's a danger here that comes by misinterpreting the data, too. For starters, who's to say someone's profile on a social networking site is an accurate depiction of who they *really* are, vs. a persona they like to project?

EG. I once dated a gal who had a MySpace account that gave a VERY different idea of who she was from reality. It's not that her photos weren't really her, or that she *lied* about anything. It's more that she was trying to be as "hip" and "trendy" as possible on her page. So, despite the fact she was basically an "A" student and spent most of her time studying in grad. school, all of that was conveniently left out, and things that in reality were only minor footnotes in her daily life were accentuated instead. Her photo gallery? Pretty sparse in the way of photos showing her typical clothing and "look", or of pictures of the family. Instead? A whole collection of photos she asked a friend to take one time when she was all "made up" in clothes she didn't usually wear, and trying to do a "photo shoot" type of thing with it. Even her listed "favorite books" and "favorite music" were carefully picked and chosen. Once I knew her a while, I realized she listened to quite a bit of classic rock ... yet she didn't seem to think that was part of the image she wanted to portray on her profile, so it was ignored in favor of the latest alternative and dance bands she also happened to like.

And that's all really just harmless, "fun" stuff. But what about people who are thinking along those same lines when they post the set of 50 crazy, drunk party photos they've got from one of the ONLY times they really went out and partied? What about the people who take an interest in something like computer hacking, so they post a lot of links related to the subject and list those types of books as their favorites? Does that mean they're actually INVOLVED in hacking, or does it mean they're actively trying to STOP hacking (a "white hat" type)?

You have to remember that whether or not people go to the effort to lock their FB or MySpace profiles down as "private" -- they often only have a certain audience in mind. They're not building the whole page thinking "This is what I'd want law enforcement to know about me, in case they come looking." They're not generally thinking, "I'm putting this here because I'm job hunting." either. It's a *social* network, meaning friends, family and like-minded individuals they consider "brethren" in some fashion. I think anyone trying to use the info from OTHER angles than that need to be very cautious how they interpret what they see.

Terms of Service violations? (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#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]

Also.. (4, Insightful)

e2d2 (115622) | more than 4 years ago | (#31501260)

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

Re:Also.. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31501466)

Well, not everyone likes pepsi!

Re:Also.. (2, Interesting)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 4 years ago | (#31501562)

Except that this is different, in that once an agent has "friended" you on Facebook, your profile becomes available to the entire investigative agency. If an agent meets me at the bar and engages me in conversation, they learn only as much as I tell them -- perhaps that is a significant amount, perhaps they can use that conversation to investigate me further, but they are not receiving a profile of my entire life, and they cannot continue questioning me when I am not around. It is the nature of round-the-clock access to a person's profile and life, and the spillover into their friend's lives (now the agent can read wall posts and various other little hints about what your friends are up to) that makes this a more intrusive form of investigation.

Re:Also.. (5, Insightful)

Thinboy00 (1190815) | more than 4 years ago | (#31501648)

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

Re:Also.. (1)

Sancho (17056) | more than 4 years ago | (#31501792)

I have heard that on Facebook, friends of friends can see your profile. That's why I'm not on Facebook.

Also, I wonder how strongly a court would trust a twitter accounting of your whereabouts. I've been spreading disinformation for years to keep burglars and data miners off of their game.

Re:Also.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31502102)

I have heard that on Facebook, you have some control over the lengths to which friends of friends can see your profile. Aren't things that you've heard great!!??

Re:Also.. (1)

Shotgun (30919) | more than 4 years ago | (#31501750)

Unless they become your friend, and then you invite them back to your 'crib' and give them a key to your front door. Maybe they become close enough of a 'friend' that you invite them to your next drug deal, where the other cops that are listening in over the hidden microphone learn the names of the other dealers and start surveillenc on them. Eventually, they map out your entire friend network and arrest everyone in one big bust.

Of course, that cost thousands of dollars to pull off and puts policemen in danger. Facebook, OTOH, allows them to do the same surveillance and avoid the messy "initiation" routines that all the TV cops have to do to get to the inner circle of the gang.

Re:Also.. (1)

amicusNYCL (1538833) | more than 4 years ago | (#31502350)

It is the nature of round-the-clock access to a person's profile and life, and the spillover into their friend's lives ... that makes this a more intrusive form of investigation.

Go up to an agent or detective and tell him that you think his investigation into the private life of his murder or drug dealing suspect is too intrusive. See what he says. After he stops laughing, of course, you'll need to wait for that.

"Private" Information? (1)

The Angry Mick (632931) | more than 4 years ago | (#31501262)

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.

Is this private data that they've "hacked" into (a la Zuckerberg [businessinsider.com]), or is this a case of the feds reading whatever they found posted on the dude's wall or open Twitter page?

Re:"Private" Information? (1)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 4 years ago | (#31501602)

Some of it concerns "public" information -- that is, information that the user expects to be public -- but some of the techniques described involve "friending" a person under investigation, and then having access to their entire profile. It is not "hacking," but it has a similar effect.

Re:"Private" Information? (1)

Eric52902 (1080393) | more than 4 years ago | (#31501760)

This is not hacking any more than someone walking up to you on the street, asking you for your keys, then taking your car for a joyride is theft. Sure, you may not want the person driving your car, but then, why did you give them your keys? It's the same concept here, your public information is just that and anything else, you need to give the person permission to see. If said person ends up being a government agent and you get nailed, maybe you should have taken the friend request under more careful consideration.

Re:"Private" Information? (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 4 years ago | (#31502342)

This is not hacking any more than someone walking up to you on the street, asking you for your keys, then taking your car for a joyride is theft.

If someone asks for my keys under pretenses other than "I intend to take your car for a joyride", and then uses the keys to take my car for a joyride, it is theft (larceny) of the car. (It's also, in many jurisdictions, theft [false pretenses] with respect to the keys.)

So this probably isn't the analogy you want to use to make your argument.

Re:"Private" Information? (1)

Thinboy00 (1190815) | more than 4 years ago | (#31501668)

It's social engineering (a la phising, but assumes that the reader is competent (knows how to use the system) but dumb (can't tell a good idea from a bad idea)).

I don't see a problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31501264)

Maybe a TOS violation as someone pointed out. This kind of thing should be expected in any public forum. And if your profile is hidden from the public and you're a suspect, then don't be surprised if a secret agent man is trying to get added to your friends list. They will use whatever means possible.

Why is this different? (4, Insightful)

captaindomon (870655) | more than 4 years ago | (#31501268)

How is this different than what the FBI does offline? It's just an online version of an offline undercover sting, right?

Re:Why is this different? (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#31501434)

You are correct. They aren't doing anything that you nor I couldn't do - besides having access to police records and placing people under arrest. The actual information gathering is pretty standard stuff.

Re:Why is this different? (1)

linzeal (197905) | more than 4 years ago | (#31501624)

The question is, are they investigating outside their purview when they start looking into people's friends and organizations they belong to? To my knowledge this is very much a grey area and if a judge is asked to examine the legality of evidence involved in something like this, the lines had better be pretty bold and black or he will throw the case out. You can't start with one person on Facebook and start putting all his friends under surveillance willy nilly.

Re:Why is this different? (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#31501680)

Why not?

I may have gone to highschool with someone who is now a known drug dealer. Now they can look at my profile and stuff if I have it public, they aren't stepping over any boundaries. If I don't have it public, they can't see it. They literally would have to imposter someone I know to get on my friends list (which is in fact illegal) - so I don't have to worry about that.

On the chance that they do look into it - it will be very obvious I have not associated with the person after investigating MY events and other information. .

Re:Why is this different? (1)

linzeal (197905) | more than 4 years ago | (#31501790)

Where does it end? That has not been made clear.

Re:Why is this different? (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#31501848)

There is nothing illegal against me investigating you or your friends.

Are you not concerned about that?

Law Enforcement Agencies are not going to waste their time creeping out on facebook unless they have some sort of lead. If you have an issue with keeping stuff Private your issue is with Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, etc - not with the feds.

Re:Why is this different? (1)

linzeal (197905) | more than 4 years ago | (#31502208)

That is not the point, the question is not what they care about or will or will not " waste their time " with, it is a question of privacy. 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? Do they then have the right to investigate the friends of his friends etc? Are we all suspects?

Re:Why is this different? (2, Informative)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#31502262)

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.

Re:Why is this different? (1)

causality (777677) | more than 4 years ago | (#31502082)

I may have gone to highschool with someone who is now a known drug dealer. Now they can look at my profile and stuff if I have it public, they aren't stepping over any boundaries.

There are state compulsory education laws. There's also the fact that you have little or no selection of high schools when you reside in a particular geographical area. Then there's the notion that you did not force that person to become a drug dealer, probably did not even know he was doing that, and in either case are not responsible for his actions. Now they get to examine your life and investigate you, and you don't think boundaries have been crossed?

On the chance that they do look into it - it will be very obvious I have not associated with the person after investigating MY events and other information. .

There's no reason to believe anything about you or obtain any information on you, until and unless they have probable cause to believe you have committed a crime. That's not a matter of opinion, taste, or personal preference. It's sound policy for a free country, for law-abiding citizens who don't want to fear their government, and it's exactly why the Fourth Amendment was written.

Re:Why is this different? (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#31502220)

Now they get to examine your life and investigate you, and you don't think boundaries have been crossed?

Considering that either

A) The information is public, like putting it on a billboard
or
B) I have to accept their friend request in order for them to access any information

How is this any different than giving consent to let them investigate you?

There's no reason to believe anything about you or obtain any information on you, until and unless they have probable cause to believe you have committed a crime

Right - which is why police go undercover in the first place, right? I don't see how this is any different.

Well perhaps they're not allowed speakers at work (2, Funny)

Orga (1720130) | more than 4 years ago | (#31501286)

I wouldn't be surprised if they're all using headphones to listen to youtube videos and peoples favorites songs on myspace. I believe their latex gloves also make typing quieter

alibis (1)

bsDaemon (87307) | more than 4 years ago | (#31501316)

Because, you know, people twitter "going downtown to cap off @bigjimmy then getting stromboli" or whatever... and like tweets really establish an alibi anyway. Maybe with geo-tagging, but even then that's suspect, for there is no reason to believe that the perp didn't give his phone to someone to go tweet something from somewhere else.

Re:alibis (2, Informative)

Nos. (179609) | more than 4 years ago | (#31501400)

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.

Re:alibis (1)

Shotgun (30919) | more than 4 years ago | (#31501852)

You're not thinking on the level of a criminal, bsDaemon. Face it, we're not talking the fairest and brightest of society here. We're talking about that species of human that has barely above being an evolutionary kickback. They're STUPID. We're talking about the sort of people that would kill Michael Jordan's father on the side of a lonely NC highway, hear and see the ensuing hoopla spread through the news, and THEN go around showing off his NBA championship ring.

Collecting Tweets and Facebook entries is just picking the low hanging fruit for law enforcement.

The adage still applies (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31501336)

Don't post information publicly, and it can't be used against you.

Agents can lie, by law, in the investigation of criminal activities. The fact that they can lie, yet you cannot, underlies why I think the US is now a police state.

Is this what EFF should be doing with ACTA about ? (-1, Offtopic)

unity100 (970058) | more than 4 years ago | (#31501378)

ACTA battle is much more important than any of these, for if it is lost, all of these will be petty issues and already lost by default.

i dont think EFF is doing enough to combat acta. they should be pushing more, and also doing consciousness raising campaigns. Notice how the u.s. govt. and us mainstream media avoids the subject to fool people. its as if nothing is happening, there is no ACTA.

this needs to be fixed.

Re:Is this what EFF should be doing with ACTA abou (1)

MrTripps (1306469) | more than 4 years ago | (#31501494)

You mean stuff like this: http://www.eff.org/issues/acta [eff.org] ?

Re:Is this what EFF should be doing with ACTA abou (-1, Offtopic)

unity100 (970058) | more than 4 years ago | (#31501574)

no i mean more. ACTA is equivalent with the anti network neutrality attempt the telecoms made back 2-3 years ago. its a BIG threat. yet, eff is taking it as if its another serious but not critical issue.

go to eff mainpage. you wont even see a mention of acta there as of this moment.

what i mean is EFF and other organizations should be banging drums mainly on this, frontpage, doing lobbying and consciousness raising and all, until it gets beaten.

Re:Is this what EFF should be doing with ACTA abou (1)

unity100 (970058) | more than 4 years ago | (#31501620)

their latest blog entry on acta is from January 29th, 2010, for fuck's sakes.

Turn it against them (5, Funny)

MSRedfox (1043112) | more than 4 years ago | (#31501384)

So if they want to use my tweets to break alibis, does this mean I can make tweets to reinforce them? '8:00 in bed and going to sleep' '9:00 woke up to the sound of a gun shot in the distance, I hope Bob the snitch is okay' '9:15 Going downtown with Officers for a cup of coffee, they are so nice' '9:30 after officers read my tweets, they apologized for wasting my time and drove me home'

Re:Turn it against them (1)

Shotgun (30919) | more than 4 years ago | (#31501892)

Yes. It is reinforcement. Not completely foundational reinforcement, but in an investigation everything counts (until it doesn't).

typical inflammatory wording (1)

sribe (304414) | more than 4 years ago | (#31501416)

How exactly are they gathering "private" information from public web sites? Hint: if you post it to a public web site, it is not private any more!

No privileged access == no problem (2, Insightful)

surmak (1238244) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.)

Oh, thats a naive article (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31501442)

All of the data from facebook or myspace can be obtained in a far more complete form than just creating a profile and copying it by hand.... just pay someone off that works in their IT departments, or, worse case scenario, at the NOC that supplies the tubes to their sites.


The idea that feds would have to play some childish game of making false profiles to gather data is so obviously naive that I can only suggest that the very idea that they would have to sink to such kindergarten methods is spawned by false opposition.


The only part that makes any sense at all would be to communicate with the suspect anonymously to force an extraction of specific information, but, other than that--- how many of us have worked in IT for a relatively large sized company? If you have, its so obvious to you that if you were some unscrupulous shiesty dishonorable admin that every single secret or sensitive piece of information contained in your company would be for sale to the highest bidder... one of the last places I worked for had 10+ years of stuff like every single credit card number that had been processed there--- literally hundreds of thousands of CC#s, if not millions, etc... and all of it would have fit easily several times over on a standard DVD-R. Luckily for them, I have a convicting sense of right and wrong and am more concerned for how well I sleep at night than I am over how much is in my bank account.


Anyone thats worked in IT knows that there are, for most companies, almost no checks and balances for this sort of thing. If the feds, or anyone else with enough money wanted every single 1 and 0 on the platters that house facebook or myspace, they would have it.

Serously... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31501448)

Have any murder suspects really tweeted their crime? This will happen one day.

Re:Serously... (1)

ls671 (1122017) | more than 4 years ago | (#31501912)

> Have any murder suspects really tweeted their crime? This will happen one day.

tweet:
Guys, it's done... ;-)

As a member of SDS (2, Interesting)

linzeal (197905) | more than 4 years ago | (#31501548)

We are not the baby boomer's SDS run by Marxist dogma by the way. Just wanted to get that out there before people start yelling commie. Mostly we act as a guard against the insane grabs of power and money by academic institutions that have been occurring at an alarming rate since the late 1990's. We are about as socialist on average as the socialist democrats are in Europe, even though we have some outliers.

We have had an online presence for years and the one thing we set out at the start was to be open so if infiltration happened it would be well documented. There are no closed email lists, no secret societies and no calls to violence or overthrowing of the government. However, that does not mean that we have not been spied upon [newsds.org] and we do take threats to our civil rights to assembly, speech and liberty seriously. What we worry about mostly is the threat of the government running counter intelligence programs against us like COUNTELPRO [wikipedia.org] in the 70's since the FBI and the US DOD have been linked to some instances of agent provocateur activity during the Bush years. So the question that any investigation of these acts by the government is when they stop being surveillance and start being about collecting data on honest citizens who surround a suspect and via police misconduct and prosecutorial witchhunts.

Heavens to Betsy! (1)

hargrand (1301911) | more than 4 years ago | (#31501628)

This is just terrible! Next thing you know they'll be looking at Craigslist, or Angieslist, or, or, or, newspapers and the White Pages. What ever are we to do?!

It's not private (1)

Trailer Trash (60756) | more than 4 years ago | (#31501732)

browse private information such as postings, personal photographs, and video clips.

No. What you're referring to is *public information* if they can get to it through the normal user interface. Now, if they call up facebook and say "I want to see so and so's non-public photos", fine, it's a problem, they need a warrant.

But I'm tired of this nonsense where someone posts all kinds of crap on their facebook account, make it public (or allow "friends" to see it), and then act like it's not supposed to be viewed by law enforcement.

If you don't want the cops to see it, don't post it to facebook. Why is this so hard?

In other news... (1)

ls671 (1122017) | more than 4 years ago | (#31501854)

In other news, intelligence gathering agencies read newspapers, listen to news, read blogs, read Usenet posting, read Slashdot and other forum and news sites. They sometimes post to the newspapers, usenet and web sites to deceive potential suspects.

How is them reading/posting on Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, and Twitter any different?

I heard sometime ago that one of the most effective way to gather intelligence was to read newspapers if you knew how to correlate things. I do not see why this principle couldn't apply to electronic media.

And guess what ? You are allowed to do it too ! Many journalists have done just the same thing to find out stuff ;-)

Facebook profiles (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31502010)

So this guy I don't know invited me to become friends on Facebook. He only has 36 friends, and they're all convicted felons.

Seriously though, all fake profiles I know have so few friends it gives them away. Sheesh, but they're the feds, so they probably know what they're doing.

As someone contracted to investigate (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31502088)

As someone contracting with the Feds to provide security clearance investigations (You didn't think the Feds did that themselves, did you?) I can assure you that the social networking sights are one of my first stops, along with a routine credit check with the top three reporting agencies, the IRS, etc. I also visit your neighbors and ask them if they know someone else I can talk to. Your neighbors are only too happy to help, btw. I investigate your buying habits, see whether you have too much credit or are too much in debt, check the court systems. It's amazing what's out there and freely available without the need for a warrant.

Oh, yes, and places like Facenbook are a gold mine because they show you at your worst. You like dissing your boss and calling him an asshole? You like posting your drunken mug or yourself smoking some weed with your buddies? That's enough to deny you a clearance right there. In fact, it's enough to get your sorry ass fired.

I don't need a warrant because you are so stupid that you'll tell me this stuff gratis. And don't whine about your so-called 'rights.' You don't have half the rights you think you do. Besides, if you choose to be stupid in public it's your own damn fault.

Obviously, I'll have to post this AC or risk getting fired myself.

well, there is this... *Content Facebook © 20 (1)

robnator (250608) | more than 4 years ago | (#31502120)

This agreement was written in English (US). Please note that Section 16 contains certain changes to the general terms for users outside the United States.

Date of Last Revision: December 21, 2009
Statement of Rights and Responsibilities

This Statement of Rights and Responsibilities ("Statement") derives from the Facebook Principles, and governs our relationship with users and others who interact with Facebook. By using or accessing Facebook, you agree to this Statement. ...
Registration and Account Security

Facebook users provide their real names and information, and we need your help to keep it that way. Here are some commitments you make to us relating to registering and maintaining the security of your account:

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

end quote

but then who would expect our law enforcement officials to obey the law? Oh, wait... we do. :(

Re:well, there is this... *Content Facebook © (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31502204)

I'm the AC below. I'm not breaking any laws at all, nor am I violating Facebook's Terms & Conditions. I am simply legally lurking and paying attention to what Facebook users make publicly available. If you decide to moon a bus full of tourists in public and I happen to see it, it's not me who has broken the law; it's you.

Web filters (1)

craash420 (884493) | more than 4 years ago | (#31502266)

I'd guess this is just a scheme to have their IT department unblock their favorite networking site. Maybe I can convince my boss to let us do tech support via Facebook...

Can't be... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31502282)

Can't be that quietly. This is like the fifth time I've seen a headline like this on here.

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