New York Court Rejects Facebook Bid to Stop Search Warrants
As it stands now, it is crystal clear that Facebook Inc. has failed in its bid to stop the biggest search warrant ever received by the company. This came to fruition as a result of a court ruling in New York. The ruling has the potential of mitigating the volume of information social media sites relay to law enforcement agencies in the future.
The huge amount of digital information in the hands of social media companies have triggered privacy related worries across America and this has been made worse by law enforcement officials who utilize it as evidence of wrongdoing against people.
Cyrus Vance Jr. a Manhattan District Attorney, in 2013, secured 381 warrants in the build up of a Social Security fraud investigation. Just last year, Facebook postings that included; photos of people performing martial arts and riding jet skis, provided Vance the required evidence to nail about 134 persons charged with cheating the government by lying about their various disabilities.
Facebook’s appeal was allowed to stand although it had already complied with the search warrant, in a case that has attracted the attention of big players like Twitter Inc, Google Inc, and the American Civil Liberties Union.
In New York, a Manhattan appeals court on Tuesday validated Vance’s search warrants and unanimously ruled that Facebook lacks any right to challenge the warrants before they were executed.
Keeper of Law
The court said that the judge serve as a ‘constitutional gatekeeper’ that ‘protects citizens from the actions of an overzealous government,’ and that there are other means of protections against unreasonable searches; primary amongst all is that fact that a judge determines the validity of a warrant before it is issued.
The court went on to say that any evidence obtained unconstitutionally from an individual can be suppressed before the beginning of the trial.
Facebook spokesman Jay Nancarrow, through an email, has revealed that the company will continue to fight on behalf of its users. He had this to say:
We continue to believe that 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.
Joan Vollero, Vance’s spokeswoman said this through an email: The appeals court is the third to block Facebook’s efforts to prevent “lawful evidence gathering.”
Guilty as Charged
Vollero said that a total of 108 persons has already pleaded guilty to charges of the felony for partaking in the fraud and that the sum of $24.7 million must be returned.
The court said that “Our holding today does not mean that we do not appreciate Facebook’s concerns about the scope of the bulk warrants issued here. Facebook users share more intimate personal information through their Facebook accounts than may be revealed through rummaging about one’s home.”
This particular case is In re 381 Search Warrants Directed to Facebook Inc., 30207-13, New York State Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Department.
Images from Rose Carson and Shutterstock.