This week, the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) joined three other rights groups and four tech companies in urging an appellate court to reconsider a decision that allowed prosecutors to snoop Facebook users.
The case started two years ago when the Manhattan District Attorney’s office presented Facebook with a bulk warrant to search the profiles of 381 Facebook users. The search was part of an investigation into possibly fraudulent social security claims, specifically whether or not a group of firefighters and police officers had faked mental illness related to the September 11 attacks. To make matters worse, the order also prevented Facebook from notifying affected users about the search.
This case raises important questions that impact the digital privacy and expressive rights of every New Yorker, including the threshold question of whether companies like Facebook have the right to challenge an order to produce its customers’ records on the basis of its customers’ privacy rights,” the NYCLU wrote.
The point that the union group and tech companies are making is simple: Facebook cannot adequately protect its own users if a better standard is not set.
“Allowing Facebook to stand up for its customers is an important check on law enforcement’s demands for our private social media activity,” NYCLU Senior Staff Attorney Mariko Hirose said in a statement.
With the amount of publicity and pressure focused on this case, it seems likely that some kind of stronger legal resolution will be reached on behalf of users.