New York’s highest court handed Facebook a legal setback this week when it ruled in a 5-1 decision that a warrant for digital information cannot be appealed by the company, and that they must be appealed by individual defendants themselves.
The case stems from an investigation by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office into more than 130 cases of disability fraud. During the course of the investigation, officials sought information on the accused via Facebook. The social media giant fought the move in court, though it did hand over some information to prosecutors — including a photo of an allegedly disabled police officer riding a water motorcycle.
Several other tech companies, including Microsoft, Apple and Twitter, have filed legal briefs in the case to support Facebook, indicating how seriously the Silicon Valley community takes the outcome of the case. The dissenting judge, Rowan Wilson, also wrote that the judges were punting the issue instead of dealing with a legal problem that won’t go away anytime soon.
“Although the framers of the U.S. Constitution knew only the technologies of the 1780s, the framers of the New York Constitution’s provision against unreasonable searches and seizures worked 150 years later and knew more,” Wilson wrote. “Our state constitution, unlike its federal counterpart, includes explicit protections against unreasonable searches and seizures of electronic communications.”
While this ruling is bad for Facebook, it’s even worse for users who don’t want their private data to fall into the hands of law enforcement.