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In re Search of Information Associated with the Facebook Account Identified by the Username Aaron

United States District Court, District of Columbia

November 26, 2013

IN THE MATTER OF THE SEARCH OF INFORMATION ASSOCIATED WITH THE FACEBOOK ACCOUNT IDENTIFIED BY THE USERNAME AARON. ALEXIS THAT IS STORED AT PREMISES CONTROLLED BY FACEBOOK, INC

For USA, Plaintiff: Opher Shweiki, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Washington, DC.

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MEMORANDUM OPINION

JOHN M. FACCIOLA, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

On September 27, 2013, this Court was presented with an application for a search warrant pursuant to Rule 41 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure and 18 U.S.C. § 2703(a), (b) and (c), to compel Facebook, Inc. to disclose certain records and contents of electronic communications relating to the Facebook account identified by the user name " Aaron.Alexis." See generally Affidavit in Support of an Application for a Search Warrant [#1-1].[1] This Court did issue a Search and Seizure Warrant Order [#2], but in light of the Court's determination that the government's request was " overbroad under the Fourth Amendment because of the unwarranted invasion into the privacy of third parties," the Court's Order significantly narrowed the scope of what information Facebook could give the government. Id.

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at 1. That Order also promised that a memorandum opinion would explain the Court's reasons for issuing the modified search and seizure warrant.

I. BACKGROUND

As part of its investigation into the September 16, 2013, shooting at the Washington Navy Yard, perpetrated by Aaron Alexis, the government learned that Alexis had a Facebook account where he posted " long statements about his perspectives on life and would write about those things or people who bothered him . . . most postings were depressing and negative in nature and could be described as mini-rants." [#1-1] at 6.

The government subsequently filed with the Court its application for a search warrant, which was intended to operate in a bifurcated manner. First, the government outlined the information that it wanted Facebook to " disclose" to the government:

a) All contact and personal identifying information, including full name, user identification number, birth date, gender, contact e-mail addresses, Facebook passwords, Facebook security questions and answers, physical address (including city, state, and zip code), telephone numbers, screen names, websites, and other personal identifiers.
b) All activity logs for the account and all other documents showing the user's posts and other Facebook activities;
c) All photos and videos uploaded by that user ID and all photos and videos uploaded by any user that have been tagged in them;
d) All profile information; News Feed information; status updates; links to videos, photographs, articles, and other items; Notes; wall postings; friend lists, including the friends' Facebook user identification numbers; groups and networks of which the user is a member, including the groups' Facebook group identification numbers; future and past event postings; rejected " Friend" requests; comments; gifts; pokes; tags; and other information about the user's access and use of Facebook applications;
e) All other records of communications and messages made or received by the user, including all private messages, chat history, video calling history, and pending " Friend" requests;
f) All " check ins" and other location information;
g) All IP logs, including all records of the IP addresses that logged into the account;
h) All records of the account's usage of the " Like" feature, including all Facebook posts and non-Facebook webpages and content that the user has " liked" ;
i) All information about the Facebook pages that the account is or was a " fan" of;
j) All past and present lists of friends created by the account;
k) All records of Facebook searches performed by the account;
l) All information about the user's access and use of Facebook Marketplace;
m) The types of service utilized by the user;
n) The length of service (including start date) and the means and source of any payments associated with the service (including any credit card or bank account number);

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o) All privacy settings and other account settings, including privacy settings for individual Facebook posts and activities, and all records showing which Facebook users have been blocked by the account;
p) All records pertaining to communications between Facebook and any person regarding the user or the user's Facebook account, including contacts with support services and records of actions taken.

[#1-1] Attachment B at 1-2.[2] Second, the government specified the information that it ...


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