According to Reuters, New York prosecutors have recovered $18 million in government and civil fraud cases using warrants to search Facebook accounts. However, Facebook is disputing the warrants as unconstitutional, claiming that the searches violated the rights of the 381 users who had photos, messages and other private content confiscated.
130 indictments were brought in the case against New York civil servants for Social Security fraud. More than 90 defendants in the case have pled guilty and have agreed to pay $18 million in restitution. Though Facebook agreed with the warrants when they were issued last year, the site is now making a strong stand against the practice of broad online searches. Several other tech companies and advocates, including Google, Twitter and the American Civil Liberties Union, have supported Facebook’s challenge. However, according to the District Attorney’s filing on Wednesday, Facebook doesn’t have the right to defend its users on their behalf. The brief also targeted Facebook’s stance on privacy, noting that user privacy is determined by the individual on a case-by-case basis.
“Some customers treat their accounts as ‘digital homes,’ and maintain some degree of privacy,” the brief said. “Others treat their accounts more as digital billboards, broadcasting material to dozens or even hundreds of others, thus abandoning any claim of privacy.”
Though Facebook’s tactics likely won’t overturn any cases, it could prevent evidence from the site from being used in court. More importantly, it could set a precedent for any criminal case moving forward that involves evidence from the site.