Personal details that a Playstation 4 system might reveal about its owner have been delivered by Sony to federal authorities investigating claims that a Kansas resident tried to go to the Middle East to join a terrorist organization.
The report comes from consumer tech information site WCCFTech, which includes an image of an application for a search warrant submitted by FBI agent Michael Buono.
Along with searching email, Google, YouTube and other social media accounts, and a cell phone, the FBI will look at “information associated with a Playstation Network account associated with a Playstation4 gaming system.
Among the target’s suspicious activities was an apparent attempt to delete all information from his system.
The report said Sony delivered the deleted data that was hosted in the company’s California headquarters.
Law enforcement officers eventually concluded the investigation target, identified as Isse Aweis Mohamud, “wasn’t actually involved in any terrorist activities” but he did end up getting a four-year sentence for passport fraud.
“It appears the belief that tracking PS4 communications was ‘more difficult’ than WhatsApp – as was said by the Belgian federal home affairs minister Jan Jambon after the Paris attacks – is either wrong or the company has changed the ways it stores data and makes it available to the authorities,” the report said.
“This case, however, has the potential to worry gamers since it’s not just the device details and purchase information, but probably everything that is up for grabs. The courts have previously said that PlayStation Network account data isn’t subject to the ‘reasonable expectation of privacy’ of the Fourth Amendment protections,” it said.
“While social media companies routinely share data with the intelligence agency (some details of which are shared every year in their transparency reports), this is probably the first time that Sony has been asked to share data on a suspect. [There have been requests in the past, but they were limited to law enforcement getting access to the devices they can dig into themselves],” the report said.
The company revealed the suspect’s account registration data “along with console activity, sales activity, device message history (for both PS4 and PS3), and associated device details for the PlayStation Network user ID DejanWoW.”
The report explained the investigation was begun “when the suspect’s mother contacted the police for help as she believed her son, Isse Aweis Mohamud, may have left the country to fight for a terrorist organization.”
“As for why involve PS4 communications, it seems that the suspect’s brother told the investigators that Mohamud had deleted all the information from his PS4, sharing some anecdotal details with the agencies, as well. Mohamud had earlier given the agency permission to search his PS4, which was found wiped out,” the report said.
The warrant explains several circumstances, including that the target’s brother confirmed Mohamud “had installed a lock on the door of a garage at the family’s home, was very private about the area, and did not allow anyone to enter that room. Mohamud’s brother reported that from outside the garage he sometimes could hear Mohamud talking on the PS4 inside the garage.”
The FBI filing also notes Mohamud’s brother and sister worried he was getting involved in terrorism, and he had wiped a hard drive on a laptop.
The charges stemmed from his claim on a passport application that he planned to travel to Canada, when in fact he went to Alexandria, Egypt.
Under a pseudonym on social media in conversation with “Ali Alami” he apparently was told he can be “one of mujahideen,” and he confirmed he was thinking about “becoming a sniper, Inshallah (Allah willing).”