Facebook Takes Search Warrant Challenge to NY's Top Court
Facebook and Manhattan prosecutors went to New York state's highest court Tuesday to settle a legal dispute over search warrants for users' accounts, a closely watched case with big implications for online privacy.
An attorney for Facebook told the judges that it must be allowed to object when law enforcement seeks search warrants for its users' information. Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. argued it is up to individual Facebook users to fight any effort to obtain personal information for criminal investigations.
Prosecutors sought search warrants in 2013 for the accounts of 381 people in connection with a disability benefits fraud case against New York City police and fire retirees.
The Menlo Park, California-based social media company challenged the warrants, but lower courts sided with prosecutors, ruling that Facebook didn't have legal standing to object since the target was information about possible suspects -- not Facebook. Facebook turned over the data but has continued to contest the actions of prosecutors.
Facebook attorney Thomas Dupree said the search warrants were unprecedented in their scope. Facebook regularly works with law enforcement but has to be allowed to object when it feels a search warrant is overly broad, he said.
"This case involves the DA's seizure of the most personal and intimate information imaginable," Dupree said. "These are people's private thoughts and communications, on their lives, their identities, their families, their politics, their religion, their sexuality, all captured in the DA's dragnet."
Vance said anyone whose Facebook information is seized has the right to sue prosecutors for damages or challenge the admissibility of the evidence in court. He also noted that prosecutors must go before a judge before obtaining search warrants.
"Law enforcement is always going to be bumping up against people's privacy," he said. The search warrants for social media posts, he added, are "really no different than if we issued a search warrant into someone's house and took books and records or a car or a safe deposit box."
In the alleged disabilities fraud case against police and fire retirees, prosecutors sought the social media content in an attempt to show the retirees were leading active lives and lying about disabilities.
A decision is expected within a few months.
© 2017 Associated Press under contract with NewsEdge/Acquire Media. All rights reserved.
Posted: 2017-02-16 @ 5:27pm PT
So the question of personal data seems to argue it's different over say someone who kept a diary or kept a written log or other physical personal evidence. I think eventually this will be ruled that data on a social site, a cloud storage site, or any other internet site is personal property subject to search warrants as any other physical property. This idea that data is somehow protected differently from physical property seems rather lame. Some other cases are being argued in courts over personal data stored in the cloud but that server is in another country. Again, this is more about a warrant seeking personal data which even the accused probably wasn't aware of where that data was stored. It is very predictable that law enforcement throughout the world will eventually win the battle for including personal data as the same as other physical personal property subject to a warrant or seizure. If cell phone data can be obtained, if automobile tracking data can be obtained with a warrant, that would also be considered personal data. To me it's no different for a Facebook account or email or any other web account.
Posted: 2017-02-11 @ 1:33pm PT
The SSA does a great job at verifying what a disabled person can engage in.
Computers and technology are mitigating many of the disabilities!