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Facebook defies over-sharing rep by challenging search warrants

Facebook has earned criticism over the years for collecting unprecedented amounts of data from its users and then capitalizing on it. None of us know exactly how much of our private information has been sold to advertisers at Facebook’s discretion.

In light of this, it is surprising to hear that Facebook officials are now working diligently to protect user data from the government, which allegedly demanded that Facebook hand over detailed account data on approximately 381 users suspected of criminal activity. Facebook officials have argued that this violates the Fourth Amendment rights of users to be protected from unreasonable searches and seizures.

Facebook challenged the search warrants issued by prosecutors, but a New York judge ruled that the company is merely a repository of data and therefore had no stance to challenge the warrants. Facebook officials also took issue with the fact that none of the nearly 400 suspects were informed that their personal data was the subject of a search warrant. As such, none could contest the searches on their own behalf.

In addition to the high number of warrants issued, it is also troubling that each of the warrants sought vast amounts of user data and was not topic-limited or time-limited. When appealing the case, Facebook argued that “The government’s bulk warrants, which demand ‘all’ communications and information in 24 broad categories from the 381 targeted accounts, are the digital equivalent of seizing everything in someone’s home. Except here, it is not a single home but an entire neighborhood of nearly 400 homes. The vast scope of the government’s search and seizure here would be unthinkable in the physical world.”

For many users, Facebook has become the central hub of online information about their personal lives. It is easy to understand why law enforcement agencies and prosecutors would like what essentially amounts to unrestricted access to this gold mine of data. But for these same reasons, it is particularly important to make sure that the privacy and Fourth Amendment rights of Facebook users are protected.

Source: The New York Times, "Forced to Hand Over Data, Facebook Files Appeal," Vindu Goel and James C. McKinley Jr., June 26, 2014

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Meet Attorney Guillory

Attorney Joshua S. Guillory was born in Alexandria, Louisiana. Upon graduating high school from Alexandria Senior High, he enrolled in classes at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette where he earned his Bachelor of Science degree. Josh was a member of Mu Kappa Tau, a national honor society for marketing majors, while attending... Read More

Joshua S. Guillory

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