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FBI Asked Sony for Data on User Who Allegedly Used PlayStation Network to Sell Cocaine

The search warrant application even asks what games the suspect played and their progress.

by Joseph Cox
Dec 3 2019, 5:24pm

Image: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images

In October, the FBI applied for a search warrant compelling Sony to provide data on a PlayStation 4 user who was allegedly part of a cocaine distribution network, according to court records reviewed by Motherboard. The application even asks for what games the alleged drug dealer played, and his progress in them.

The search warrant shows how law enforcement agencies are increasingly asking game console companies, and manufacturers of internet connected devices in the home in general, for data on users.

"The Provider is hereby ordered to disclose the above information to the Government within 14 days of service of this warrant," the search warrant application, filed on October 22 in the Western District of Missouri, reads.

The case revolves around Curtis Alexander, also known as "Dola," who the FBI alleges used PlayStation's online service to coordinate the sale of large quantities of cocaine.

"The CHS [Confidential Human Source] stated ALEXANDER was currently charging $34,000 per kilogram of cocaine. The CHS stated ALEXANDER utilizes the PlayStation username 'Speedola20'," the application reads, referring to an unnamed informant for the FBI who helped investigate Alexander.

The CHS said Alexander contacted them through the PlayStation game "during game."

"The phase 'during game' is a reference to audio communication held during the CHS and ALEXANDER's participation in an online multi-player game," the application continues. "Investigators believe that ALEXANDER likely believes that audio communication during the course of his participation in an online game is secure. As such, ALEXANDER likely believes that he can use audio communication during game play on the PlayStation to arrange the details of a drug transaction."

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The FBI and CHS went on to setup a sting in which the Bureau surveilled Alexander selling the informant a bag of around 100 grams of white powder for $4,400, and Alexander told the CHS he wanted to talk again later that evening on the "game," the court document adds.

The game that Alexander allegedly used is not named, and there is no indication in the application that in-game communication was being recorded by the game itself or Sony. But Alexander did allegedly talk with the CHS across PlayStation's own messaging service, which lets users send text messages or voice memos to one another.

With that in mind, the FBI asked for essentially all information that Sony may have held on the user. We don't know if Sony provided the data, but the request included the content of all communications associated with the PlayStation account, "including stored or preserved copies of emails, chats, or other messages sent to and from the Account, drafts of such, and the source destination addresses associated with each, the date and time at which each was sent, and the size and length of each," the search warrant application reads.

The FBI also requested all records regarding the identification of the account such as name, physical address, telephone numbers, any passwords associated with the account, security questions and answers, and technical information such as the IP address used to register and log into the account.

The Bureau also wanted details on what games were played, and even software data such as "progress."

The warrant application also includes some PlayStation messages that investigators had already obtained, seemingly from the CHS. In one of them, Alexander appears to complain that CHS is not on the unnamed game.

"You by the game, yo ass talk about me," the CHS writes.

"N---- I been on the game u the 1 ain't been on," Alexander replied.

Sony did not respond to a request for comment.

Forbes previously reported on ostensibly the first known instance of Sony providing PlayStation data to a government. In May 2017, the FBI applied for a search warrant asking for user data in a terrorism-related investigation.

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Tagged:
Cocaïne
privacy
FBI
Sony
Playstation
PS4
PlayStation 4
drug-dealing
online drug dealing