- Facebook ID numbers that can be used to identify child abuse victims have been left exposed in public federal court documents, Forbes reports.
- The documents identified victims by their initials and Facebook account IDs, which Forbes was able to easily use to find the Facebook accounts and identify the minors.
- The Justice Department did not respond to a request for comment, and the court documents are reportedly still unsealed.
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The US government has been inadvertently revealing the names of child abuse victims by failing to conceal their Facebook account IDs.
The ID numbers for Facebook accounts belonging to minors have been publicly available in unsealed federal court documents, Forbes reports. Forbes was able to take these ID numbers — used along with initials to identify the victims in child abuse documents — and plug each one into a web address after “facebook.com/” to easily find out the identities of the minors.
These documents are from federal court cases and investigations involving FBI investigations launched after Facebook tipped off police about incidents happening on the platform that involved minors. In one of the cases, a Nebraska man was charged with child pornography after private chats on Facebook revealed he discussed “graphic” sexual acts with a 14-year-old girl, Forbes reports.
The Justice Department has not responded to a request for comment from Forbes or Business Insider. The documents Forbes references in its article remain unsealed, the publication says.
This isn’t the first time identifying information has been left exposed in public documents, a part-time consultant for court filings database Pacer told Forbes.
“It’s a problem that unfortunately occurs with too much regularity,” Seamus Hughes told Forbes. “DOJ must take seriously their responsibility to redact the victim’s personal information.”
In the DOJ’s “Justice Manual,” which outlines policies US attorneys should abide by, there’s a specific section devoted to protecting the identity of child victims and witnesses. Under law, involved parties are required to “keep all documents that disclose the name or any other information concerning a child in a secure place to which no person who does not have reason to know their contents has access.”