Are You in the FBI's Social Circle?

Anyone who listens to the news lately knows that the FBI is involved in catching criminals such as in the Pennsylvania school which is now under FBI Investigation (February 24,2010 School Charged With Spying on Students via Live Webcams)and now they are being investigated by the FBI. Last year there were 2 versions of Ten Most Wanted widgets put out there by the FBI that could be added to websites, or social network pages. And you all are probably aware that, yes, the FBI has an open profiles on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube . They even have billboards up in Second Life. Sorry, Myspace, you were not included in the FBI’s social circle.

But today, it was discovered that the FBI is actually training agents to use these same social networking sites to “friend” suspects, collect evidence and obtain witnesses. This is according to the advocacy group the EFF(Electronic Frontier Foundation) who posted documents revealing how Federal Agencies are infiltrating these networks. Self-described, The “EFF is the leading civil liberties group defending your rights in the
digital world”.
   Records obtained from the Internal Revenue Service and Department of
Justice Criminal Division, are the first in a series of documents that
will be released through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) case that
EFF filed with the help of the UC Berkeley
Samuelson Clinic

The EFF claim that in the agency’s 2009 training presentation called
Obtaining and Using Evidence from Social Networking Sites, revealed that
undercover agents for the FBI and other agencies set up false profiles
on sites
like My Space and Facebook to try to nab suspects by getting access to
social networks.
TThis slide series, which were prepared by two lawyers from the agency’s
Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section, detail several social
media companies’ data retention practices and responses to law
enforcement requests. The presentation notes that Facebook was “often
cooperative with emergency requests” while complaining about Twitter’s
short data retention policies and refusal to preserve data without legal
process. The presentation also touches on use of social media for
undercover operations.

Another source file cited by the EFF was an interesting training course that describes how IRS employees may use various Internet
tools — including social networking sites and Google Street View — to
investigate taxpayers.

The documents released by the IRS also include excerpts from the
Internal Revenue Manual explaining that employees aren’t
to use government computers to access social networking sites for
personal communication, and cautioning
them to be careful to avoid any appearance that they’re speaking on
behalf of the IRS when making personal use of social media.

The EFF states on it’s website:

The IRS should be commended for its detailed training that clearly
prohibits employees from using deception or fake social networking
accounts to obtain information. Its policies generally limit employees
to using publicly available information. The good example set by the
IRS is in stark contrast to the U.S. Marshalls and the Bureau of
Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Neither organization found
any documents on social networking sites in response to EFF’s request
suggesting they do not have any written policies or restrictions upon
the use of these websites.

Now we are to assume, I gather that these infiltrations, for lack of a better word, by the FBI into our Social networks is purely for the  purpose of “tracking” and investigating already known criminal suspects and not your everyday, average Joe or Joanne.  Everyone seems to be getting uptight about this “invasion” of privacy. 

Well, first of all the FBI and other agencies already have the ability to track text and cell phone voicemail, tap phones and such. Also, if anyone is stupid enough (sorry, but it is) to “friend” anyone that you do not know in the first place,and you happen to be doing anything illicit (well just the fact that you are online with it anyway) then you deserve to be tracked or caught in the act. We just do not know how deep this goes. For instance, if the FBI decides to “take on” the profile of a known friend ( identity-theft) would not they be in violation f the law as well? Do they have some sort of special immunity in this case just because they were the FBI? But this brings us back to if you are not doing anything wrong to begin with, what is there to get all excited about?

Let us know what you think about all this.


  1. Thanks for this, but we had talked about this a couple months ago. I saw it on the WBOC news at noon too. This is not new news!

  2. Actually it is NEW NEWS because before they had just joined the networks but now it is confirmed that they are using the networks to track people. Although we had jokingly speculated that the Justice Dept might use this tactic, now they really are sanctioning it. Also it leaked out that there are documents, training manuals and such outlining strategies.The IRS which we joked about now says it is against using social networking in ways that are fraudulent just to gain info.


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