Hackers claiming to be associated with the group Anonymous breached two Gmail accounts beloning to Alfredo Baclagan, a cybercrime investigator in California. Talking Points Memo reports the hackers last week published 38,000 emails online. Among the emails was a file that led to Facebook’s law enforcement guide, which outlines for law enforcement personnel how they should go about reporting illegal activity to Facebook.
With Facebook’s reputation for privacy, I was somewhat expecting the guide do offer any and all information on a user, so the general theme of compliance is not surprising, but it appears the company won’t just roll over for any official requesting information. One part explains their obligation to the user:
Because we must verify that compliance with your request for information would be mandatory pursuant to local law, we request that you explain in detail the legal authority for your request.
This passage seems to imply that Facebook won’t hand over your information unless they are absolutely legally required.
The guide, dated 2010, does not mention the social network’s location-based services. The information it says they are capable of handing over basically consists mostly of IP addresses of recent logins, profile information (it does not say whether or not they will release messages sent privately), and photos.
Presumably, there is or will be an updated guide with mention of location-based information as well (since users can now use Facebook like the popular foursquare service, “checking in” as they make their way through the physical world.), but unless someone else gets hacked, we’re not likely to see it anytime soon.
While some companies are very transparent about their policies around law enforcement requests, Facebook has not been publicly vocal on the subject. This silence was quite intentional, as indicated on the document:
This guide is CONFIDENTIAL and intended for law enforcement use only. Please do not redistribute it without the express written permission of Facebook.
Photo/Creative Commons/Scott Beale / Laughing Squid