Lawsuit demands info on government’s use of social media sites

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is suing five different government agencies for refusing to disclose their policies on investigations using social networking websites.

The lawsuit was filed Monday after the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Department of the Treasury, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence failed to respond to Freedom of Information Act requests that sought all records and guidelines outlining the collection of personal information from social media.

The initial FOIA requests were made after recent news reports indicate that government investigations have been increasingly relying on social networking sites — in October, for example, the Federal Bureau of Ivestigation used Twitter to catch a man accused of bank fraud.

In its lawsuit the EFF stated that “[a]lthough the Federal Government clearly uses social-networking websites to collect information, often for laudable reasons, it has not clarified the scope of its use of social-networking websites or disclosed what restrictions and oversight is in place to prevent abuse.”

Congress is considering legislation that would set guidelines on the government’s use of these websites.

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