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Facebook vs Privacy Rights

Reality check: your Facebook profile isn’t actually private. CNN reported that, “in a decision that raises crucial issues in the digital age, a New York state appeals court ruled this week that Facebook cannot protect users against search warrants obtained by law enforcement officials to access users’ digital information.” Manhattan prosecutors are currently investigating a huge social security fraud situation, which required approximately 381 search warrants to access users’ private profiles. Facebook tried to refuse this request, but the appellate court voted against the right to do so this past Tuesday.

Mariko Hirose, a New York Civil Liberties Union attorney, stated that, “the major implication for Facebook users is not having a way to have their privacy rights protected before the government obtains their data.” Therefore, if Facebook is no longer in the right standing to refuse a search warrant, all users take two steps backward toward protection of their privacy.

When this fraud situation reached its peak back in July of 2013, search warrants had been issued in the hopes of cracking down on the social security disability scam. In fact, prosecutors shared that, “the search warrants used to obtain access to Facebook accounts helped them indict people who lied about their psychiatric conditions and disabilities in order to obtain benefits.” They were able to locate evidence through pictures posted to their accounts and more than 100 retired NYC police officers and firefighters were indicted in January of 2014.

CNN shared that, “of the 381 people whose accounts were the subjects of those warrants, only 62 were charged in the disability fraud case.” However, this does not mean more people will not be charged, as the government faces no limits on how long they can hold onto the information obtained through the search warrants. Facebook attempted to call the search warrants unconstitutional, but law enforcement officials demanded that they relay almost all data without informing the owners of the accounts that have been shared.

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