Will Facebook Help Authorities Catch Craig ‘Lazie’ Lynch?

By Matt Van Hoven 

For three months now, Craig ‘Lazie’ Lynch has been on the lamb from London authorities after escaping from a Suffolk Bay prison in September. The convicted thief has been using Facebook to taunt his pursuers, posting pictures of his various exploits &#151 which include activities like sex and cooking.

Though entertaining the story may be it calls to question how Facebook will react in light of a convicted criminal using the site, not for criminal activity per se. It’s likely that Lynch’s Facebook profile is the strongest link (Update: apparently, Lynch has two profiles) to his whereabouts given Facebook at this very moment has access to Lynch’s IP, and therefore (potentially) his whereabouts. Facebook’s privacy policy, which changes almost monthly, is clear: “We may disclose information pursuant to subpoenas, court orders, or other requests (including criminal and civil matters) if we have a good faith belief that the response is required by law.”

The “good faith” clause is a common way for companies to deflect responsibility to proper authorities in cases like this. But Lynch hasn’t done anything illegal (that we’re aware of) on Facebook, and so the question becomes whether or not Suffolk Bay authorities have gone so far as to contact the social networking site. Facebook PR did not respond to an email request by the time this story was published.

But Facebook is an American company, so how do they handle cross-border issues like this? Again, the privacy policy is clear: “This may include respecting requests from jurisdictions outside of the United States where we have a good faith belief that the response is required by law under the local laws in that jurisdiction, apply to users from that jurisdiction, and are consistent with generally accepted international standards.”

Assuming Facebook would choose to aid authorities, they’d most likely provide Lynch’s IP address, which authorities could use to determine Lynch’s whereabouts. Giving up user data is a slippery slope, opening the door for lesser and lesser offenses to come under scrutiny by Facebook. To date it hasn’t been a national-news issue, but once in awhile the site gets wrapped up in criminal foibles.

Update: Facebook’s UK PR team got back to us and “have spoken with the Suffolk police (the force who are looking into Craig Lynch’s) disappearance and I can confirm we have been in touch and will work with the police about this matter and we work with law enforcement agencies where they are investigating criminal activity.”

Update 2: Asked what information they will provide authorities, the Facebook UK representative writes, “The police have asked us to not talk about methods we can use as they don’t want to do anything which might jeopardise Mr Lynch being caught as quickly as possible.”

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