If you’re on the lam, you probably shouldn’t update your Facebook status.
According to documents released by Cryptome, the same site that released Microsoft’s confidential Spy Manuals last week, police can easily gain access to Facebook’s volume of personal information. With a simple request to Facebook’s Security Team, law enforcement agencies can gain access to everything from pictures to IP information.
The manual sheds some light on the recent law enforcement trend of tracking down fugitives with Facebook.
While some burglars are idiotic enough to rob a house and check Facebook while doing it, or leave status updates such as “X is breaking into a tavern safe,” or “X is hiding cocaine stash in bag up rear end” (seriously, who wants to read that in a status?), most aren’t. The genius of this method of catching crooks is that most people are so connected to social networking sites that they won’t stop checking them, even while dodging the cops.
Of course, this has major privacy implications as well. While Facebook requires a subpoena and/or a search warrant to access this information, this revelation should serve as a reminder to all that you might not be the only one watching your online actions. It also calls into question Facebook’s deletion policy.
Facebook is hardly alone in this policy, either. Cryptome has also recently released similar guides for Stickam, AOL, Cox Communications, Comcast, Ning and Skype. Most will provide IP information with a subpoena, as well as access to uploaded media.
The availability of this information has helped to take dangerous criminals off of the streets. In all likelihood, it will become an essential tool in police attempts to snare fugitives. However, it should also serve as a reminder to law-abiding users to be very cautious with personal information. You’re not the only one watching.