In July 2013, the New York District Attorney’s office received a warrant to search the profiles of 381 Facebook users. Facebook tried to block the action, but received a gag order that prevented them from notifying users about the searches until June of this year. After the gag order expired, Facebook aired out the issues in a statement that caused some consternation among privacy watchdogs over the seemingly far-reaching power of the DA. Now, last Friday, the New York Civil Liberties Union filed an amicus brief that said the warrants were “profoundly invasive” and should never have been issued.
In addition to civil liberty experts, Facebook received strong support from a more unexpected source: their competitors in the tech community. Google, Dropbox, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Twitter Foursquare and more companies signed on to a brief on Friday backing Facebook.
“Just because that’s the way we use technology nowadays, I don’t think it means people are giving up their rights to privacy,” said Miriko Hirose, a lawyer for the New York Civil Liberties Union. “Courts should and are recognizing the realities of the digital age.”
The main complaint from both the tech companies and the civil liberty groups: Facebook profiles should not be treated as one uniform source of information. After all, they contain a lot more personal data than just the information relevant to a criminal case. Religious and political affiliations, videos, pictures: it’s all up there, and the police shouldn’t have the right to access it.