By Rosa Golijan | MSNBC | Apr. 9, 2012
If police officers were to file a subpoena for your Facebook information, they would receive a printout of the data from the social network. This printout would be so detailed, complete and creepy that you should strive to be a good law-abiding citizen, just to prevent it from ever existing.
We have just learned about the true nature of Facebook's responses to subpoenas thanks to documents uncovered by the Boston Phoenix, an alternative weekly.
While researching a story about a man dubbed the "Craigslist Killer," reporters at the Phoenix had access to "a huge trove of case files released by the Boston Police Department." And in the process of sifting through all of those documents, they discovered the Boston Police's subpoena of the suspect's Facebook information— as well as the data provided by the social network.
The data — which really did come in the form of an old-fashioned paper printout rather than as a digital file of some sort — included all of the suspect's wall posts, photos he'd uploaded, photos he'd been tagged in, a list of his Facebook friends, and "a long table of login and IP data." Based on a look at the actual documents, it appears the login and IP data actually lists which parts of Facebook the individual accessed — down to the photos, groups and profiles he viewed.
According to a published FAQ, this is Facebook's fairly extensive law enforcement policy:
We work with law enforcement where appropriate and to the extent required by law to ensure the safety of the people who use Facebook. We may disclose information pursuant to subpoenas, court orders, or other requests (including criminal and civil matters) if we have a good faith belief that the response is required by law. This may include respecting requests from jurisdictions outside of the United States where we have a good faith belief that the response is required by law under the local laws in that jurisdiction, apply to users from that jurisdiction, and are consistent with generally accepted international standards.
We may also share information when we have a good faith belief it is necessary to prevent fraud or other illegal activity, to prevent imminent bodily harm, or to protect ourselves and you from people violating our Statement of Rights and Responsibilities. This may include sharing information with other companies, lawyers, courts or other government entities.
If you'd like to see how the information looks, the printout of the "Craigslist Killer" suspect, who committed suicide before the trial could reach a resolution, has been posted online by the Boston Phoenix. Both the Boston Police as well as the Boston Phoenix have redacted parts of the documents. From what we can tell, Facebook doesn't censor any data before responding to a subpoena, but we have asked the social network for confirmation.