Facebook Denies Special Partnership with Police

    October 28, 2013
    Josh Wolford

It’s no secret that Facebook will cooperate will law enforcement. The company will disclose account records upon receiving a valid subpoena, court order, search warrant, or national security letter. Basically, Facebook says that they will do what the law requires – but with the utmost respect for user privacy. Not only that, but Facebook also reserves the right to aid police in times of emergency, for instance suicide or self-harm prevention and missing children. There stipulations aren’t hidden away or anything – you can check them out in Facebook’s Safety Center if you’d like.

On the other hand, we know that law enforcement monitors Facebook activity to help alert them to criminal acts, or to build evidence against a suspect. For the past decade or so, many an idiot has been snared by his own Facebook trap. When you think about just how many people are more than willing to give up so much information about themselves via social media, the cops would be crazy not to use it as a crime-fighting resource.

So, it’s not like law enforcement and Facebook are strangers or anything. But according to Facebook, there is no special partnership that allows police to simply yank down content it deems criminal – despite reports to the contrary.

Recent reports have suggested that Facebook and certain police units have an ongoing partnership that allows them a sort of back door into content removal and user blocking on the social media giant. Kenneth Lipp first reported of the arrangement, which he said was disclosed at a gathering of the International Association of Chiefs of Police last week. The story was picked up by The Daily Caller and RT.

Here’s what Lipp had to say:

Also, not yet reported in the press, a senior police officer from the Chicago PD told a panel on Monday that his department was working with Facebook’s security chief to block users’ from the site by account (person), IP, and device (he did not say if by UUID or MAC address or other means of hardware ID) if it is determined they have posted what is deemed criminal content. Facebook’s Joe Sullivan was scheduled to speak according to the original schedule for the panel “Helping Law Enforcement Respond to Mass Gatherings Spurred by Social Media,” but was unable to attend (also present: Edward Flynn, Chief of Police, Milwaukee Police Department, Milwaukee, WI; Katherine McQuay, Assistant Director, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, U.S. Department of Justice, Washington, DC; Chuck Wexler, Executive Director, Police Executive Research Forum, Washington, DC).

Not so, according to Facebook. The company has released a statement on their Fact Check site, which aims to “clear up” what they call misconceptions in the public’s mind about certain Facebook practices. Here’s their short and sweet response:

“Content reported by law enforcement is subject to the same review applied to reports from anyone using Facebook. There is no special partnership. We evaluate these reports based on our community standards, and as always, may remove information that violates our policies.”

Basically, Facebook is saying that if content is deemed in violation of their ToS, it will be handled in the same way no matter who reports it.

“We take the privacy of your information very seriously. If Facebook receives an official request for account records, we first establish the legitimacy of the request. When responding, we apply strict legal and privacy requirements,” says Facebook.

Image via Thinkstock


Josh Wolford
Josh Wolford is a writer for WebProNews. He likes beer, Japanese food, and movies that make him feel weird afterward. Mostly beer. Follow him on Twitter: @joshgwolf Instagram: @joshgwolf Google+: Joshua Wolford StumbleUpon: joshgwolf