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Here's What Facebook Sends the Cops When They Subpoena Your Activity

By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. | Last updated on

Ever wonder what happens when law enforcement subpoenas Facebook?

Well, it's not pretty. The Boston Police Department provided journalists at the Boston Phoenix a copy of its Craigslist Killer case file. In that file was a nearly 70-page paper printout of Philip Markoff's Facebook information.

We're talking a massive, highly-detailed printout of his social network data. Wall posts, friends lists, login and IP data, posted photos and photos he was tagged in.

To say the subpoenaed Facebook data is creepy is an understatement. Facebook redacts nothing -- not even the names of people you chatted with online. Law enforcement is told when you logged in and from where. Investigators are given photos of your smiling (or drunken) face.

Perturbed? Don't worry, it appears to get a lot worse.

At least one court has ruled that Facebook and other social networking sites are providers of Electronic Communication Services and Remote Computing Services under the Stored Communications Act. User data is therefore given some protection from disclosure.

Facebook itself seems to agree with this assessment, posting guidelines for law enforcement agencies on its site. That page states that the company requires, as per the law, a warrant before it will disclose "the stored contents of any account, which may include messages, photos, videos, wall posts and location information."

If this is true, why did it only take a grand jury subpoena for Facebook to divulge the entire contents of Philip Markoff's account? Unless the Boston Phoenix wasn't provided with a copy of the warrant, it seems Facebook is willing to give up user information at law enforcement's mere request.

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