By: Brooke Girton
Right to privacy is a sticky issue when it comes to social media, especially considering the platforms are inherently about sharing information with other people. Even with tight privacy settings, anything you post can be shared with others. We have all heard the stories of people getting caught for criminal acts or criticized for immoral behavior because they posted about it on social media. Now, authorities are lobbying for access to social media accounts and private messages and protected tweets in order to convict suspects.
A New Jersey court ruled that police do not need a wiretapping order to access this private information. Wiretap orders are reserved for more serious crimes, used as a last resort. Instead, they can get a communications data warrant, which is much easier to obtain. However, these warrants only included visual content and not audio. This meant videos can be used as evidence but a wiretap order is required for the audio portion. After some debate about the nature of online videos, the warrants were again changed to include audio. Facebook has attempted to thwart these new court rulings in New York. Warrants were served for Facebook to allow access to 381 profiles without informing the users that their privacy was being infringed upon. Although Facebook contested the warrant, the motion was denied and they were forced to comply.
Authorities are still trying to catch the law up to new technologies and the dilemmas they bring. Facebook is likely not just protecting the privacy of its users, but also its livelihood. Users are likely to be wary of using social media when anything they say in private messages can be used against them. Now, more than ever, it is imperative that users on social media be careful of what they say, even in confidence. Anything you can, and may, be held against you in the court of law.
LoBiondo, G., & Newman, C. (2017, February 9). Does Facebook Have the Right to Challenge Search Warrants Seeking Facebook Users’ Data? New York’s Highest Court Hears Argument. Retrieved from http://www.jdsupra.com/legalnews/does-facebook-have-the-right-to-54599/
Sullivan, S. (2017, February 02). Wiretap Privacy Rules Don’t Apply to Social Media Messages, N.J. Court Rules. Retrieved from http://www.nj.com/politics/index.ssf/2017/02/twitter_posts_not_subject_to_wiretap_law_nj_court.html