Want CNET to notify you of price drops and the latest stories?

ICE reportedly uses Facebook data to track suspects

The social network says the case mentioned in a report by The Intercept involved the investigation of an “active child predator.”

Richard Nieva Former senior reporter
Richard Nieva was a senior reporter for CNET News, focusing on Google and Yahoo. He previously worked for PandoDaily and Fortune Magazine, and his writing has appeared in The New York Times, on CNNMoney.com and on CJR.org.
Richard Nieva
2 min read
Facebook campus signing showing the "Like" thumbs-up.

ICE uses Facebook data to track suspects, according to a report by The Intercept.


When US Immigration and Customs Enforcement tries to track down suspects, one of the tools the agency can use is back-end data from Facebook, according to a report Monday by The Intercept.

For example, while looking for a man last year, ICE was able to get a log of when he accessed Facebook, as well as corresponding IP addresses for each of those logins, according to documents obtained by The Intercept through a public records request.

However, Facebook said ICE made a valid legal request for an investigation involving an "active child predator."

"We take the enforcement of laws protecting children from child predators very seriously, and we responded to ICE's valid request with data consistent with our publicly available data disclosure standards," a Facebook spokesman said in a statement. "ICE did not identify any immigration law violations in connection with its data request to Facebook in this case."

"Facebook does not provide ICE or any other law enforcement agency with any special data access to assist with the enforcement of immigration law," the spokesman added. "We require officials to provide a detailed description of the legal and factual basis for their request, and we push back when we find legal deficiencies or overly broad or vague demands for information."

In a statement, an ICE spokesman said, "Due to law-enforcement sensitivities, we're not going to comment on investigative techniques or tactics other than to say that during the course of a criminal investigation (and I emphasize criminal investigation), we have the ability to seek subpoenas, warrants and court orders to legally compel a company to provide information that may assist in case completion and subsequent prosecution."

The report comes as Facebook is under intense scrutiny over how it handles user data. Facebook's reputation took a beating last week over Cambridge Analytica, a consultancy used by the Trump presidential campaign that misused Facebook data from 50 million accounts. According to Facebook, the data was initially gathered by a researcher named Aleksandr Kogan, who collected the data legitimately but then broke Facebook's terms of service by passing it on to Cambridge Analytica.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg apologized for the incident and outlined ways Facebook would change its platform, but the exploit raised questions about Facebook's efforts to protect user data.  

Correction, March 27, 7:42 a.m. PT: This story, following information that originally appeared in The Intercept story, initially misstated ICE's targets. ICE was pursuing unspecified suspects.

iHate: CNET looks at how intolerance is taking over the internet.

Special Reports: CNET's in-depth features in one place.