FBI used Etsy, Instagram, LinkedIn, and other Internet history to track down a protester who set cop cars on fire
In an elaborate use of open-source intelligence, The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on Wednesday tracked down a protester who set cop cars alight by tracing the custom T-shirt she wore at a Philadelphia. Lore-Elisabeth Blumenthal was tracked down by the FBI using her peace tattoo and Etsy and LinkedIn profiles. The use of people’s social media records and open-source intelligence is a further proof about the potential danger of posting protest photos online.
Blumenthal, a 33-year-old massage therapist, now faces two counts of felony arson for her role in setting two police vehicles on fire. If convicted, she faces a maximum possible sentence of eighty years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, and a fine of up to $500,000.
Yesterday, United States Attorney William M. McSwain announced that Lore-Elisabeth Blumenthal, 33, of Philadelphia, PA has been charged by criminal complaint for the arson of two Philadelphia Police Department (PPD) vehicles. FBI agents were able to identify her thanks to an investigation that largely relied on data and content freely available online.
The search for Blumenthal’s digital footprint took the FBI agents from Instagram, where amateur photographers also captured shots of the masked arsonist, to an Etsy shop that sold the distinctive T-shirt the woman was wearing in the video. It led investigators to her LinkedIn page, to her profile on the fashion website Poshmark, and eventually to her doorstep in Germantown.
FBI agents then used combination of an aerial video taken the day of the protests, Instagram posts of the burned cars, along with 500 photos photos taken by an amateur photographer, and—crucially—a forearm tattoo and an Etsy t-shirt, and ultimately leading them to the her social media accounts. FBI then identified the wording on the her shirt: ‘KEEP THE IMMIGRANTS, DEPORT THE RACISTS,’ to track her down, according to news first reported by VICE, citing FBI agent explanations in the affidavit.
FBI agents then Googled ‘alleycatlore’ and found a user named ‘Lore-Elisabeth’ on Poshmark. Agents then looked up ‘Lore-Elisabeth Philadelphia’ and found her LinkedIn page, which later shows that she works as a massage therapist for a company in the Philadelphia area.
Authorities then used videos from the company’s Vimeo account to identify tattoos that matched Blumenthal to the woman at the protests. Authorities found a phone number on the website and then used it to identity the woman’s address and DMV photo.
While this occurred, Etsy provided purchasing records – following a subpoena – and confirmed that “Xx Mv” (her Esty user name) purchased a shirt. The subpoena also revealed that the items were sent to a Lore Elisabeth in Philadelphia.