Posts Tagged Philip Markoff

What Facebook Hands Over To Police When A User Is Suspected Of Murder – Forbes


What Facebook Hands Over To Police When A User Is Suspected Of Murder

Phil Markoff’s Facebook file, via the Boston Phoenix

The Boston Phoenix has a pretty fascinating and detailed story about the digital detective work involved in tracking down Phil Markoff, a.k.a. the Craigslist Killer. After looking for evidence in the Marriott hotel room where the first erotic masseuse victim was found and going through the victim’s cell phone to contact friends and relatives, the Boston Police Department turned to the somewhat controversial technique, recently brought into the spotlight by the ACLU, of location-tracking cell phones for help with the investigation.

After a second attack at a Westin Hotel, some FBI agents who happened to be passing through helped the Boston police to “pull cell-tower records for the time period 15 minutes before and after each incident, for those near the scene of each crime.” They tried to pinpoint a phone that was used in both areas around the times of the attack, but they wound up with hundreds of phone numbers. So, it was basically a dead end.

What wound up being much more useful was the email address that Markoff used to contact his first victim. It was a throw-away hotmail account, but Microsoft was able to give the police the IP address of the person who opened it (after getting a subpoena), while Comcast was able to supply the name and physical address of the person associated with the IP (also after receiving a subpoena).

That’s when the police turned to Facebook. They sent a subpoena to the social networking giant and got a 60+ page dossier on Markoff, including all of his wall posts, the photos he’d been tagged in, a list of his friends, and a history of his log-ins (with associated IP information). It doesn’t seem to have actually been that helpful in the investigation, but it makes for an interesting perusal. (The police also asked Facebook for its records on Markoff’s oblivious but seemingly innocent fiance.)

In posting the Facebook file, the Phoenix headlined it, “When the cops subpoena your Facebook information, here’s what Facebook sends the cops.” That’s incorrect given what Facebook says are its practices these days. This investigation was conducted back in 2008. The police department wouldn’t be able to get that much information today with just a subpoena (an official request from a law enforcement or government agency that hasn’t been reviewed by a judge). When I interviewed Facebook’s director of security, Joe Sullivan, earlier this year, he told me the company provides only “basic subscriber information” in response to a subpoena, meaning a user’s name, e-mail address and IP address. Sullivan said that, to get a peek at a user’s photos, status updates, private messages, friend lists, or pokes, law enforcement has to get a search warrant, making things a little harder for investigators but protecting users from fishing expeditions that haven’t gotten a judicial stamp of approval.

None of this meticulously-collected evidence wound up being used to try Markoff, though, because he committed suicide after being charged.


Hunting the Craigslist Killer [The Phoenix]

 What Facebook Hands Over To Police When A User Is Suspected Of Murder – Forbes.


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Here’s what Facebook sends the cops in response to a subpoena | ZDNet

Here’s what Facebook sends the cops in response to a subpoena

By Emil Protalinski | April 7, 2012


Summary: When the authorities send a subpoena to Facebook for your account information, what do they receive? Here is a document showing the pages and pages of data Facebook hands over.

Facebook already shares its Law Enforcement Guidelines 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 The Boston Phoenix 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.

I’ve embedded the full thing, courtesy of The Boston Phoenix, for you above. Here’s what the newspaper had to say about the release:

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?

Last year, there was some brouhaha when Anonymous and LulzSec hackers leaked Facebook law enforcement guidelines. While they were indeed leaked, they were not new: not only were the guidelines already made available by Facebook, but they were already out of date.

Facebook followed up by publishing a webpage where you can get the latest from Facebook on its law enforcement rules. You can check it out for yourself here: Information for Law Enforcement Authorities.

 Here’s what Facebook sends the cops in response to a subpoena | ZDNet.

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