The FBI’s Secret Surveillance Letters to Tech Companies

On June 27, 2012 by stratagem

The most basic requests outlined in the templates are for name, address and length of service for either phone or Internet accounts. The broadest requests seek things such as entire credit reports, Internet activity logs, phone “billing records,” “financial records” or “electronic communications transactional records.”

In several of the templates, the FBI includes a list of specific items that “may be considered” by the companies to be responsive to the requests. The list for phone billing records includes 15 bullet points; there are 13 points on the list for electronic data. The items associated with financial records appear to stretch on for two pages. But we can’t know for sure what is there because it has been redacted.

Some broad outlines are available: Financial records include “any record held by a financial institution pertaining to a customer’s relationship with the financial institution.”

Electronic records involve “transaction/activity logs” and email “header information,” which includes things such as the “to” and “from” lines of a message.

The letters point out that companies aren’t supposed to tell investigators about the content of their customers’ messages; courts have long held that phone conversations and the texts of recent emails are available only with search warrants. The template to get electronic records specifically warns companies not to provide the subject lines of emails for this reason.

Read More: WSJ

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