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Facebook Secretly Gave Illegal Profile Access to Italian Police, Report Claims

facebook loginItaly's L'Espresso is reporting today that Facebook has signed a secret agreement with Italian police, giving them unfettered and potentially illegal access to user profiles. According to what the paper calls "reliable" sources, the agreement allowed 400 police officers to gather information on Italian Facebook members suspected of identity theft, phishing scams and possession of child pornography. Italian law dictates that law enforcement officials must first obtain judicial authorization before infiltrating personal profiles -- a step that Facebook and online police investigators allegedly bypassed.

In a press release, the director of Postal Police and Communications Antonio Apruzzese denied the report, reiterating that investigators can access personal data only "after receiving authorization from a judge." The police "cannot go into computers or mailboxes," Apruzzese said. "That does not even cross my mind." The director acknowledged that Facebook executives had met with Italian leaders a few weeks ago, but said that the meeting was only to establish clearer guidelines on how to best cooperate with Italian law enforcement within the boundaries of Italian criminal law. When France's Le Figaro contacted Facebook, a spokesman confirmed Apruzzese's claims.

L'Espresso, however, cites direct quotes from an "executive officer" of the Italian police, who said he was told to go to the U.S. to sign the clandestine agreement with Facebook. He confirmed that the agreement was made with the explicit purpose of avoiding the judicial process, and to allow Internet crime investigators to "act very quickly." Vincenzo Vita, a seated senator and member of Italy's Democratic Party, has already pledged to draft a parliamentary investigation into the allegations.

Tags: ChildPornography, crime, europe, facebook, IdentityTheft, investigation, italy, law, phishing, police, privacy, SocialNetworking, top, web