Facebook’s secret “neoprint” — you have one; what it is and how it helps police

FACEBOOKYou post and poke (does anyone still poke?), comment on your friend’s cute pet pics, and try to gauge if your ex is happier now or when you were together.

While social media may take up more of our time than we care to admit, it’s pretty harmless, right?

But what happens when police suspect you’re up to something more nefarious, perhaps even illegal or dangerous; and, what if investigators believe your online life could help piece it all together?

A newly unsealed federal court document suggests law enforcement can ask Facebook for a tidy information package — data which may not even be accessible by you.

A court document that was recently made public alleges an Iranian man who moved to Maine in 2009, became radicalized, and died while fighting for the Islamic State.

The document is a signed search warrant sent to Facebook in October 2015, seeking access to two accounts associated with the suspect, Adnan Fazeli.

In the document, a state police detective outlines his case for the search warrant, asking a judge to sign the warrant “directed to Facebook allowing agents to seize email and other information stored on the Facebook servers.”

“Information on the Facebook account may indicate the owner’s motive and intent to commit a crime, and the involvement of others in that criminal activity,” Detective George Loder wrote.

Loder specifically refers to Facebook’s “Neoprint” of every user.P - ONLINE PRIVACY.transfer_frame_2071

He describes the “Neoprint” as an expanded view of a user profile.

The “Neoprint,” he says, can include the following information:

  • Profile contact information
  • News Feed information
  • Status updates
  • Links to videos, photographs and other items
  • Notes
  • Wall postings
  • Friends lists
  • Future and past event postings
  • Rejected “friend” requests
  • Comments
  • Gifts
  • Pokes and tags
  • And other information about the user’s access and use of Facebook applications

While Facebook publicly outlines its operational guidelines for law enforcement and steps that must be taken before account records and stored contents are disclosed, it never mentions this so-called “Neoprint.”

According to Facebook, stored contents of an account “may include messages, photos, videos, timeline posts, and location information.”

“We take the privacy of your information very seriously,” says Facebook in its Safety Center, adding “our policy is to notify people who use our service of requests for their information prior to disclosure unless we are prohibited by law from doing so or in exceptional circumstances.”

Facebook hasn’t responded to a request asking for how many times it’s provided account access to law enforcement.

Jon Chrisos

About Jon Chrisos

Award-winning journalist Jon Chrisos is the investigative and consumer reporter at CBS 13 in Portland. He also anchors weeknights at 5:30. Chrisos is “On Your Side” investigating the stories that make a difference in your life. He’s passionate about helping those who’ve been wronged, exposing government waste, asking tough questions, and uncovering the truth.