April 8, 2012

Philip Markoff and online privacy

Filed under: Internet,law & crime by Victoria Liberty @ 10:39 pm

The Boston Phoenix recently did an interesting front-page article about the police investigation into the “Craigslist killer” case three years ago. Among the most noteworthy (and creepy) things that came out in the article was the Boston Police Department’s subpoena of presumed (although never actually found guilty in court) killer Philip Markoff’s Facebook account.

The documents sent to the cops include all the wall posts that Markoff made, all the photos he uploaded or was tagged in, a list of his friends, and all of the times he ever logged in and IP addresses he used. What makes it even worse is that, if the Markoff case is any example, subpoenas don’t just invade the privacy of the person under investigation, they also reveal information about that person’s friends, who most likely have nothing to do with the suspected crime.

As Chris Matyszczyk at CNET points out,

“The joy of Facebook — for those who find it joyous — is that it provides a vehicle for the sheer spontaneity of communication. You want people to make contact with your life, your friends, your happenings, your feelings, even. You want them to do it as soon as possible.

However, it’s not like normal human spontaneity, which can dissipate and become a memory. It’s recorded.”

Facebook does not notify users when their information is subpoenaed, nor is it even willing to say how many subpoenas it has received or responded to over the years. In other words, law enforcement could be poring through your Facebook data right now, and you wouldn’t even know it.

Comments are closed.