In defending itself, Facebook explained: "We scrutinize every single law enforcement request; require a detailed description of why the request is being made; and if it is deemed appropriate, share only the minimum amount of information. We strive to respect the balance between law enforcement's need for information and the privacy rights of our users, and as a responsible company we adhere to the letter of the law." The presentation notes, in contrast, that Twitter only produces data "in response to legal process." Both approaches are sound.
The presentation also discusses the fact that supplying fake credentials (in violation of the terms of service) can result in civil and potentially criminal liability. CNET reports that at least one case has found no criminal liability from a breach of such terms of service, but the law, as CNET notes, remains unsettled. In the Drew case, the defendant allegedly created a deliberately false identity and pretended to be a sixteen-year old for the purpose of communicating with a minor, all "conscious violations" of the MySpace terms of service. In dismissing the criminal charges, the trial court concluded that the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act was unconstitutionally vague in connection with the argument that it criminalized intentional breaches of a website's terms of service. While it is helpful to know that the DOJ is mindful of the potential criminal implications of using false pretenses in connection with a social media account, the presentation also shows a degree of interest in such techniques that might be considered to be very disturbing by some.
Apart from whether fraudulent access to a community web site is a crime, the Drew case underscores the general importance of terms of service, and the additional degree of protection they can provide to users both in terms of criminal infiltration and unwarranted government intrusion. Clear terms that require accurate personal information in connection with all accounts help safeguard users from online predators and fraud, while also helping to ensure that law enforcement goes through appropriate channels (and not secretly) to obtain content from those sites. This is just another reminder to take those terms seriously and to treat them as more than simply boilerplate. As with privacy policies, periodic reviews are wise.