In my previous position, I used Facebook to get our message out to our citizens. In the past few months I’ve had the opportunity to learn much more about how to use social media in a more “traditional” law enforcement sense. Here are a few of the things that I learned:
WHERE DO I GO?
All requests for records from Facebook begin at facebook.com/records
. When you get there you will be asked for your dot gov e-mail address (not necessary but it helps) and one of those impossible captcha things. It will look something like this:
In a short time (it is often instantly), you will receive an e-mail with a link to the Facebook Law Enforcement Online Requests system. The link will self destruct in one hour. That’s right Inspector Gadget, if you need to login again in two hours you’ll need to request another link from Facebook. Do not fear, your data will still be there when you come back.
WHAT CAN I DO FROM HERE?
Once you are logged in, you now have to choice of filling out a Preservation Request or a Records Request. A Preservation Request simply asks Facebook to preserve the data associated with a specific Facebook (or Instagram) account while you get a subpoena or a search warrant. Facebook will save the account in its current condition for 90 days. It is important to understand, if you see evidence on a Facebook page you need to request preservation immediately
. The only information you need is the Facebook user ID, vanity URL or e-mail address. The user ID and vanity URL can both be found in the same location. Either a random combination of numbers and letters (user ID) or a string picked by the user (vanity URL) can be found in the address bar of your browser immediately following “https://www.facebook.com
/”. If you take a look at the example below you can see that “phillypolice
” is the vanity URL for the Philadelphia Police Department’s Facebook page.
Once you have preserved a target account, it is time to get legal process to send to Facebook. Once you have your subpoena or search warrant (a subpoena will only get you basic subscription info and login/logout times, anything else needs a search warrant), you head over the Records Request section, upload your documents, fill out the form and send it off to Facebook. It is important to note that the old “any and all information related to the account belonging to...” does not work. If you need pictures from the account you need to have that on the warrant. If you want the metadata that goes with those pictures, you better ask for that separately. Spell out everything you need on the search warrant and Facebook to make every attempt to get it to you.
Along with this article, Facebook has a great resource for law enforcement at https://www.facebook.com/safety/groups/law/guidelines/
. Good luck and stay safe!