Facebook already shares its publicly, but we’ve never actually seen the data Menlo Park sends over to the cops when it gets a formal subpoena for your profile information. Now we know. This appears to be the first time we get to see what a Facebook account report looks like.
The 71-page document is actually two documents in one. The first eight pages are the actual subpoena; the remaining 62 pages are from Facebook. Most of the pages sent over from the social networking giant consist of a single photograph, plus formal details such as the image’s caption, when the image was uploaded, by whom, and who was tagged. Other information released includes Wall posts, messages, contacts, and past activity on the site.
The document was released by the as part of a lengthy feature titled “Hunting the Craigslist Killer,” which describes how an online investigation helped officials track down Philip Markoff. The man committed suicide, which meant the police didn’t care if the Facebook document was published elsewhere, after robbing two women and murdering a third.
This document was publicly released by Boston Police as part of the case file. In other case documents, the police have clearly redacted sensitive information. And while the police were evidently comfortable releasing Markoff’s unredacted Facebook subpoena, we weren’t. Markoff may be dead, but the very-much-alive friends in his friend list were not subpoenaed, and yet their full names and Facebook ID’s were part of the document. So we took the additional step of redacting as much identifying information as we could — knowing that any redaction we performed would be imperfect, but believing that there’s a strong argument for distributing this, not only for its value in illustrating the Markoff case, but as a rare window into the shadowy process by which Facebook deals with law enforcement.
As part of the feature, the newspaper chose to release an extensive amount of evidence that was used in the case. Part of that includes the data Menlo Park sent over to the cops after receiving a subpoena for Markoff’s Facebook account.
As The Boston Phoenix notes, however, the Facebook file contains much more than just information on Markoff. Because we’re talking about Facebook, the world’s largest social network, it is very difficult (or is it just much more work?) to get all the details about someone’s activities on such a service without including information about others.
I have two questions about this. Why did the police not redact the file before public release, forcing the newspaper to do what clearly needs to be done? Furthermore, why did The Boston Phoenix redact identifying information of Markoff’s friends but left all the event and profile IDs in the browsing history section, allowing anyone to browse the events and profiles that Markoff visited?