Facebook started out as a place for college kids to connect with each other.Now, everybody and their mama has a Facebook. Currently, there are 1.4 billion users of the premier social media site, using it for everything from keeping up with friends and family to promoting businesses. A lot of people use Facebook, believing that what they are doing on there is their private, personal business. However, a recent ruling in a New York state appeals court says that Facebook is not so private.
The ruling in the court is that Facebook cannot “challenge search warrants seeking users’ private account information,” according to the Huffington Post. As it stands, search warrants can only be challenged by defendants after information has been gathered by prosecutors. Facebook argued that the company should be held to a different standard, since workers have to gather users’ information to comply with search warrants. Facebook feels that it should be able to protest warrants on users’ behalf. Their statement stated, “overly broad search warrants — granting the government the ability to keep hundreds of people’s account information indefinitely — are unconstitutional and raise important concerns about the privacy of people’s online information.”
However, the five-judge panel hearing the case ruled that state nor federal laws allows defendants to challenge criminal warrants before they’re executed, and neither should Facebook stating, “We see no basis for providing Facebook a greater right than its customers are afforded.”
New York Civil Liberties Union attorney Mariko Hirose said the ruling was demoralizing since “there isn’t a lot of law on these issues right now.” She said a ruling in favor of Facebook would have been pivotal “because it’s so easy for government agencies to grab digital information from service providers, like Facebook and email accounts, where we store a lot of private information about our lives.”
Facebook stated that the warrants are “the digital equivalent of seizing everything in someone’s home.”
As an aid to users who may be facing criminal charges, users can download all of their account information from the site’s help center into a zip file, so they can be better prepared. Also, since status updates can be traced to specific locations through IP addresses, Facebook can also be an effective alibi.
For Facebook’s statements on the case, click here.