Court: Facebook Can’t Be Forced To Turn Over Private Data Pretrial

padlock_blue_whiteA California appeals court ruled this week that Facebook, Twitter and other social media companies can’t be required to turn over private user data to legal teams before a trial.

The case involves two San Francisco defendants who were accused of a drive-by shooting. The pair’s lawyers sought subpoenas for the victim’s and a witness’ social media profiles, claiming that the two had made threatening comments about the alleged shooters before the incident occurred. However, Facebook wanted to stop the subpoenas, arguing that they violated the Stored Communications Act. A trial court refused the site’s request, but Facebook appealed, and the second court agreed.

The appeals court that reached the decision contemplated how frequent such legal quandaries could become in the age of ever-present social media.
“Use of social media, in its myriad of forms, has become ubiquitous in our society,” the appeals court wrote. “Evidence gathered from social media is becoming equally ubiquitous in our courtrooms.”

Even though this ruling came in a case that, on its surface, has nothing to do with social media privacy, it could still make a big impact on future cases involving Facebook. No matter what you might think about the site’s stance on protecting its users’ information, it did all of us a solid here by ensuring federal privacy laws are upheld.