Lawsuit seeks information on use of social networking sites by government agencies

Lawsuit seeks information on use of social networking sites by government agenci

As many as six governmental agencies have been sued, over their use of social networks for investigation purposes, by two legal advocacy organizations – the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the Samuelson Law, Technology, and Public Policy Clinic of the University of California, Berkeley.

In their lawsuit filed in the US District Court for the Northern District of California on Tuesday, the organizations have sought the disclosure of policies that the government agencies following for the use of social networking sites for investigations, data-collection, as well as surveillance.

Citing the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the EFF and Samuelson Clinic, in their eight-page complaint, are seeking information from the Department of Defense, Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Treasury, Central Intelligence Agency, and Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

The complaint cites several media reports about the way in which government agencies have used social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace, for investigation purposes and for nabbing criminals.

Noting that the lawsuit essentially resulted from the need for increased transparency around the use of social networking sites by the government, Shane Witnov, a law student at Samuelson Clinic, said: “Social networking Web sites can be invaluable sources of information. There is a wealth of information on there that can be really useful in crime protection. At the same time, an unchecked ability to gather information from such sites could be invasive of privacy.”