FBI requires USA Today to hand over names and IP addresses of its readers to investigate criminal case

Technological resources have become a fundamental tool for the investigation of many criminal cases. An example of this is a recent report that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is trying to obtain a list of data on people who read an article about the death of two of its agents, published by USA Today. This research focuses only on people who visited such an article in a span of 35 minutes on a given day and seeks to obtain IP addresses, phone numbers, among other details.

While details about the criminal case the agency is investigating are unknown, the outlet that published the article is already trying to prevent authorities from ordering this information to be turned over, deeming it unconstitutional. Maribel Pérez, editor of USA Today, said she was surprised to receive this subpoena, especially in a country where press freedom has always been advocated.

As mentioned at the beginning, this article was published by USA Today in February 2021, and recounted the details about a gun shooting involving FBI agents trying to execute a search warrant linked to a child pornography case. Two officers and the suspect were killed during the incident.

Moreover, in its subpoena the agency asks USA Today to provide a large amount of information about some devices from which this article was accessed on its website within 8 minutes during the night of its publication. USA Today’s legal team believes that this petition is in violation of the First Amendment, presenting in its court record some rulings in which such requests have not been authorized. Media representatives also felt that access to this kind of information could severely hamper any future journalistic investigation.

It should be remembered that the Constitutional First Amendment protects five freedoms for Americans: religion, expression, assembly, the press, and the right to petition the government.

Perez added that USA Today’s attorneys attempted to contact the FBI before initiating legal proceedings against the subpoena, as well as making it clear to their readers that a U.S. court would be asked to set aside the subpoena.

To learn more about information security risks, malware variants, vulnerabilities and information technologies, feel free to access the International Institute of Cyber Security (IICS) websites.