It is interesting to know from the story of the hunt down of Philip Markoff, the young Craigslist killer, and how it has become so easy to track suspects in this digital world. This story tells some interesting facts about using digital evidence to track down suspects. In today’s world, it has become so easy to track anyone with just a single digital trait left behind. IP addresses, cell tower records, and even Facebook information can be used to track down suspects and find information about them.
Philip Makoff was tracked down using all the digital traits that he left behind. The police pulled cell tower records to find out his location and to track him down. Besides this, they used a Hotmail account that the killer used to contact his victim. Although it was just a throw away Hotmail account, it wasn’t very difficult, to get the IP address of the person who opened to account. Microsoft was ready to provide the IP address just after the FBI sent a subpoena. A subpoena is a request from a law enforcing or government agency but which is not officially judged by a court. After getting the IP address, the police was able to get the exact residential address and the name of the person from Comcast, after they sent a subpoena. This information helped a lot in tracking the suspect down.
Just to heat up the investigation, the FBI even requested information from Facebook after sending them a subpoena. It is interesting to note what Facebook provided the cops when they received the subpoena. After receiving the request, Facebook provided the entire user data to the cops and handed them a full file with all the user’s photos, all his past posts, messages, friends, pages he had liked and posts in which he was tagged. It was like giving access to the entire Facebook account including all the past history. At the request of police, they even provided information on the fiancé of Philip Markoff who was in no way related to the case.
This information was also not of any use to the FBI since the suspect committed suicide just after he was charged. But the story did lead to another pressing issue about the protection of the user’s right to privacy.
A lot of discussions have been heated up since then for the protection of the users. Interviews were held with Joe Sullivan who said that now with a subpoena, only the user name, email address and IP address is given out while for more detailed information, an official search warrant is required. this makes it difficult for the law enforcement agencies to investigate but it protects the rights of the users and protects them from fishing attempts.
Hope that this is the truth, otherwise we won’t know how many more files like that of Philip Markoff did Facebook hand over to the cops.