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July 13, 2011
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Police warrants to search Facebook profiles on the rise

Facebook regularly pushes back against law-enforcement "fishing expeditions," said a spokesperson

By PoliceOne Staff

NEW YORK — Warrants to search Facebook are on the rise among federal law enforcement agencies, according to a Reuters review.

Federal agencies such as the FBI, DEA, and ICE have sought warrants that allow them to access personal data ranging from status updates to wall posts to photographs. A package of profile and photo information unavailable to users themselves – called a “neoprint” – is used to serve the warrant, Fox News reported.

The term appears in manuals for law enforcement agencies – posted on various public-advocacy websites -- on how to request data from Facebook.

The Reuters review of the Westlaw legal data suggests that at least 11 warrants were granted since the beginning of this year, although Facebook's Chief Security Officer, Joe Sullivan, declined to disclose the exact number during an interview with Fox News.

Facebook is not required by law to inform users of when their account is subject to search, and the government does not need to issue an alert, either. The social media site regularly pushes back against law-enforcement "fishing expeditions" out of sensitivity to user’s privacy, Sullivan said.

Twitter has a formal policy in place that notifies users when law enforcement asks to search their profile, but Facebook declined to tell Fox News whether they were considering adopting a similar rule.

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