With all the recent revelations about how our private Facebook data is put to use, it should perhaps come as no surprise that law enforcement agencies also request it to track people. But a report from The Intercept this week still raised alarm bells with what it alleges are internal memos from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, or ICE, that show agents using Facebook data to find suspects.
This isn’t necessarily a scandal from Facebook’s perspective; the site often provides information to law enforcement officials if they request it through the proper channels. In this case, Facebook strongly denied that it issues special data access, and that this particular instance had to do with a child predator and not immigration issues. However, it’s still fair to be concerned with how easy it is for authorities to get our private information from these tech giants.
“Occasionally companies will push back, but that’s relatively rare,” Nathan Wessler, an attorney with the ACLU, told The Intercept. “From time to time, companies will push back if they receive what they perceive to be a grossly over-broad request… to unmask the identity of someone… engaging in First Amendment-protected speech online anonymously. But they — for the vast majority of the requests — they comply.”
Regardless of the fact that neither party in this instance did anything wrong, it still doesn’t look good when viewed alongside all the other privacy problems plaguing Facebook these days.