September 28, 2012
Federal police are increasingly gaining real-time access to Americans’ social-network accounts — such as Facebook, Google+, and Twitter — without obtaining search warrants, newly released documents show.
The numbers are dramatic: live interception requests made by the U.S. Department of Justice to social-networking sites and e-mail providers jumped 80 percent from 2010 to 2011.
Documents the ACLU released today show police are using a 1986 law intended to tell police what phone numbers were dialed for far more invasive surveillance: monitoring of whom specific social-network users communicate with, what Internet addresses they’re connecting from, and perhaps even “likes” and “+1″‘s.
The ACLU hopes the disclosure of the documents it sued to obtain under the Freedom of Information Act will persuade Congress to tighten the requirements for police to intercept “noncontent” data — a broad category that excludes e-mail messages and direct messages. The current legal standard “allows the government to use these powerful surveillance tools with very little oversight in place to safeguard Americans’ privacy,” says Catherine Crump, an ACLU staff attorney.