Be careful what you say on Facebook. New York state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, ruled on April 4 that law enforcement can seize private account information from the social networking site. With the decision, Facebook lost its years-long legal battle to block search warrants from the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office seeking access to hundreds of user accounts, the New York Post reports.
The 5-1 majority upheld two lower-court rulings that said only users themselves have the right to challenge warrants in criminal proceedings—not Facebook, the company. But, in a wonderful catch-22, the warrants in the case are subject to a gag order—so Facebook was not even allowed to warn users about that the cops were accessing their information. The court has stated the only remedy for Facebook users is to sue for invasion of privacy after the fact.
Facebook may appeal to the US Supreme Court. Until then, stoners would be well advised to exercise discretion about the details of buying and/or selling habits on the networking site—in other words, don’t be using Facebook to set up any deals.
This particular case concerns an investigation into suspected disability-benefits fraud. But, as legal-affairs blog Jurist notes, “the case addresses unresolved issues about online privacy.” It sets a precedent that may already be applied in drug investigations.
Thanks to the gag rule that’s now been upheld, we’ll never even know until it’s too late.