Leaked intelligence documents: Here's what Facebook and Comcast will tell the police about you

Wonder what information Facebook and Comcast will turn over to police and intelligence agencies about you? Cryptome, the site that last week posted the leaked Microsoft "spy" manual, has posted company documents that purport to describe what those companies will reveal about you. As with the Microsoft document, the information is eye-opening.

Keep in mind that what the companies turn over to police and intelligence agencies is not illegal. The companies are all, in their own ways, following the law. Still, it's disconcerting to see all that's available about you, if the documents are real and to be trusted. Here's the rundown on each.


The "Facebook Subpoena/Search Warrant Guidelines" from the Cryptome site are dated 2008, so there's a chance they've been superseded. The document spells out how law enforcement and intelligence agenices should go about requesting information about Facebook users, and details what information is turned over.

Following is what Facebook will turn over about you, taken verbatim from the guide:

Types of Information Available

User Neoprint

The Neoprint is an expanded view of a given user profile. A request should specify that they are requesting a “Neoprint of used Id XXXXXX”.

User Photoprint

The Photoprint is a compilation of all photos uploaded by the user that have not been deleted, along with all photos uploaded by any user which have the requested user tagged in them. A request should specify that they are requesting a “Photoprint of user Id XXXXXX”.

User Contact Info

All user contact information input by the user and not subsequently deleted by the user is available, regardless of whether it is visible in their profile. This information may include the following:


Birth date

Contact e-mail address(s)

Physical address






Work phone

Screen name (usually for AOL Messenger/iChat)


With the exception of contact e-mail and activated mobile numbers, Facebook validates none of this information. A request should specify that they are requesting "Contact information of user specified by [some other piece of contact information]". No historical data is retained.

Group Contact Info

Where a group is known, we will provide a list of users currently registered in a group. We will also provide a PDF of the current status of the group profile page.

A request should specify that they are requesting "Contact information for group XXXXXX".

No historical data is retained.

IP Logs

IP logs can be produced for a given user ID or IP address. A request should specify that they are requesting the "IP log of user Id XXXXXX" or "IP log of IP address xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx".

The log contains the following information:

* Script – script executed. For instance, a profile view of the URL http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=29445421 would populate script with "profile.php"

* Scriptget – additional information passed to the script. In the above example, scriptget would contain "id=29445421"

* Userid – The Facebook user id of the account active for the request

* View time – date of execution in Pacific Time

* IP – source IP address

IP log data is generally retained for 90 days from present date. However, this data source is under active and major redevelopment and data may be retained for a longer or shorter period.

Special Requests

The Facebook Security Team may be able to retrieve specific information not addressed in the general categories above. Please contact Facebook if you have a specific investigative need prior to issuing a subpoena or warrant.


The Comcast document is labeled "Comcast Cable Law Enforcement Handbook," and is dated 2007, so there's a possibility that it, too, has been superseded. As with the other documents, it explains how law enforcement agenices can get information, and details what information is available.

There's a great deal of detail in the 35-page document, which describes what Internet, phone, and television information will be turned over. For example, here's the IP information it will make available:

Comcast currently maintains Internet Protocol address log files for a period of 180 days. If Comcast is asked to respond for information relating to an incident that occurred beyond this period, we will not have responsive information and can not fulfill a legal request. (Comcast can process and respond to preservation requests as outlined below in this Handbook.)

As expected, Comcast will also turn over the emails, including attachments, of those who use Comcast's email service, but "In cases involving another entity’s email service or account, Comcast would not have any access to or ability to access customer email in response to a legal request."

Information Comcast turns over to law enforcement agencies varies according to the request. For example, a grand jury subpoena will yield more information than a judicial summons, as you can see in the excerpt below. Comcast notes, though, that this is just a sample, and that "Each request is evaluated and reviewed on a case by case basis in light of any special procedural or legal requirements and applicable laws." So the examples "are for illustration only."

Grand Jury, Trial, or Statutorily Authorized Administrative Subpoena

Law enforcement agencies are eligible to receive subscriber identification including items (1)-(6) without notice to the subscriber:

1) Subscriber's name

2) Subscriber's address

3) Length of service including start date

4) Subscriber's telephone number, instrument number or other subscriber number or identity, including a temporarily assigned network address

5) Subscriber's email account names;

6) Means and source of payment for such service (including any credit card or bank account number); and

7) In certain instances, email communications older than 180 days with notice.

For those who worry about privacy, though, all of this information is small potatoes. The real worry is about the use of what are called pen registers or trap-and-trace devices, which essentially capture all of your Internet activity --- the Web sites you visits, the emails you send and receive, IM traffic, downloads, and so on. Here's what the document says about them:

Pen Register / Trap and Trace Device

Title 18 U.S.C. § 3123 provides a mechanism for authorizing and approving the installation and use of a pen register or a trap and trace device pursuant to court order. All orders must be coordinated prior to submission to Comcast. Law enforcement will be asked to agree to reimburse Comcast's reasonable costs incurred to purchase and/or install and monitor necessary equipment. See "Reimbursement," below.

Comcast also details how law enforcement agencies can get details about subscribers on an emergency basis:

Emergency Disclosure

18 U.S.C. § 2702(b)(8) and § 2702(c)(4) contain provisions for the expedited release of subscriber information in situations where there is an immediate danger of death or an immediate risk of serious physical injury. Law enforcement agencies need only to adequately complete Comcast’s Emergency Situation Disclosure Request form (Reference Attachment #1) and they will receive accelerated subscriber identification.

As for your voice calls made via Comcast, here's what the company will turn over:

Call Detail Records

- Comcast maintains two years of historical call detail records (records of local and long distance connections) for our Comcast Digital Voice telephone service. This includes local, local toll, and long distance records. Comcast also currently provides traditional circuit-switched telephone service branded Comcast Digital Phone. Call detail records for this service are collected by AT&T and are available for approximately two years as well. To determine which type of service is involved, contact the Legal Demands Center—Voice and Video at 800-871-6298.

Account Records

- Account records are generally stored for approximately two years after the termination of an account. If the account has an outstanding balance due, records may be retained for a longer period of time.

As with Internet information, what phone information will be turned over depends on the specific kind of legal request, and the examples "are for information only." Here's an excerpt:

Grand Jury, Trial or Administrative Subpoena

Law enforcement agencies can receive subscriber identification including:

1) Subscriber's name

2) Subscriber's address

3) Length of service including start date

4) Subscriber's telephone number, instrument number or other subscriber number or identity, including a temporarily assigned network address

5) Subscriber's social security number (if requested)

6) Means and source of payment for such service (including any credit card or bank account number)

7) Call Detail (records of local and long distance connections)

And, as you would expect, there is the same pen register/trap-and-trace device language as in the section about the Internet.

Oddly enough, it appears that when it comes to information about your television viewing habits, you have more privacy rights than you do when it comes to information about your Internet and voice use, because it can only be turned over in response to a court order, not a subpoena. Here's what the document has to say about TV information:

Subscriber Account Identification and Related Records

For subscribers to our cable television service, the Cable Act requires Comcast as a cable operator to disclose personally identifiable information to a governmental entity solely in response to a court order (and not, for example, a subpoena) or with the subscriber's express written consent. The Cable Act requires that the cable subscriber be afforded the opportunity to appear and contest in a court proceeding relevant to the court order any claims made in support of the court order. At the proceeding, the Cable Act requires the governmental entity to offer clear and convincing evidence that the subject of the information is reasonably suspected of engaging in criminal activity and that the information sought would be material evidence in the case. See 47 U.S.C. § 551(h).

Why does the law give you more privacy protection over your television viewing habits than your Internet or phone use? I haven't a clue --- ask your congressman.

Preston Gralla provides analysis of these leaked documents:

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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