Facebook Confidential: How the Craigslist killer manhunt exposed personal details of the innocent

Filed Under: Facebook, Featured, Law & order, Privacy, Social networks

When The Boston Phoenix was researching an article about the manhunt for the notorious "Craigslist killer", they were granted access to all the case files released by Boston Police Department.

Among transcripts of interviews, crime scene photos and recordings, was - in printed form - the entire Facebook account of the suspect, Philip Markoff.

What Facebook sent the police

From Markoff's wall posts, photos he had uploaded and been tagged in, to his Facebook friends and a list of IP and login information that detailed the photos, groups and even the individual profiles Markoff had visited. You might say that the data released by the police subpoena of Facebook is extensive...

Here's what Facebook says about working with law enforcement:

Facebook FAQs

According to a The Boston Phoenix blog entry, Boston Police decided to release the printed-out data collected from Facebook without redacting any information.

Which meant that Markoff's online friends risked having their Facebook details, including their names, photographs, and conversations made public.

Fortunately, The Boston Phoenix obscured the names of individuals when it published the Facebook data. We've gone one step further in the example screenshot below, and also obscured the faces in a photograph.

Facebook photo

You cannot help but feel sorry for Markoff's innocent friends and associates, who presumably knew nothing of his crimes, and yet could have ended up having their personal information exposed. We know the police do a fantastic job, and hats off to them for the investigation which led to the arrest of Markoff, but they do need to careful with the data they share.

The Boston Phoenix has published some of the information they looked at online.

It's scary to see how comprehensive it is, and further illustrates just how much information Facebook holds about you.

Now, it's not like Facebook go around releasing this kind of information willy-nilly, but it shows just how much the bad guys would be able to access should they - eek - hack into Facebook's servers.

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2 Responses to Facebook Confidential: How the Craigslist killer manhunt exposed personal details of the innocent

  1. Mooreman · 737 days ago

    Duh! Facebook is a data aggregation company. That is their sole purpose in life. The whole Facebook website is just a big ruse to suck gullible people in, then trick them into divulging their innermost personal secrets. Facebook then collects and sells this information to 3rd party advertisers and whomever else will pay for it . That is why I stay clear of Facebook and similar sites. Sites like Facebook are so Orwellian, they give me the creeps. Its time to wake-up people.

    In this case the Boston Police did everyone a favor by exposing the type of information Facebook likes to collect and retain.

    The author who wrote this article acts so surprised by all of this, like its some kind of new revelation. Facebook is a public website, that means anything you post, can and will be read by anyone else, anywhere in the world. If you don't like that, then don't post. As far as IP addresses go, most commercial websites store and track visitors originating IP addresses, the type of browser used and whole lot more information your browser freely gives up to websites. There is no privacy online.

  2. CrankyYankee · 734 days ago

    C'mon people...just don't put anything on Facebook that you wouldn't put on a postcard.

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About the author

Anna Brading has worked in tech for more than ten years and as a writer with Sophos for over five. She has a love of all things social media, reading and cats (but she's not weird, honest).