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    Detroit News: Feds mine Facebook for info

    The Detroit News reports that federal law enforcement officials have received warrants to access the Facebook accounts of suspected criminals. (Read more about data-gathering from social-networking sites.)

    The warrants let investigators view photographs, email addresses, cell phone numbers, lists of friends who might double as partners in crime, and see GPS locations that could help disprove alibis.

    There have been a few dozen search warrants for Facebook accounts nationwide since May 2009, including three approved recently by a federal magistrate judge in Detroit, according to a Detroit News analysis of publicly available federal court records.

    The trend raises privacy and evidentiary concerns in a rapidly evolving digital age and illustrates the potential law-enforcement value of social media, experts said. […]

    Federal investigators defend the practice. “With technology today, we would be crazy not to look at every avenue,” said Special Agent Donald Dawkins, spokesman with the ATF in Detroit. […]

    Information gleaned from the Internet raises constitutional and evidentiary issues that must be considered, including privacy and the right against unreasonable searches and seizures, said Chief U.S. District Judge Gerald E. Rosen, who also is an evidence professor at Wayne State University. Evidence obtained from the Internet and social media sites also raises issues about whether the information can be authenticated, he said.

    “The Internet is the next frontier for the development of Fourth Amendment law,” Rosen said, referring to the amendment protecting against unreasonable searches and seizures.

    A Facebook spokesman said the company receives a “significant volume of third-party data requests” that are reviewed individually for “legal sufficiency.” […]

    Spokeswomen for the U.S. Attorney’s Office and FBI declined to discuss techniques used by investigators.


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