The Fourth Amendment is designed to provide the protection against unreasonable
searches and seizures. This constitutionally guaranteed right extends
to a variety of circumstances, but does it cover social media? That is
a question currently being considered on an appeal being heard in a court
in New York.
The issue was raised by Facebook, which is fighting back after a group
of prosecutors demanded full access to hundreds of accounts without the
knowledge of the account holders. These prosecutors wanted to carefully
review all postings, photos, liked pages, private messages and other information
in an attempt to gather evidence to support
The charges that were issued were connected to potential fraud involving
disability payment. The accounts being searched allegedly belong to individuals
who applied for and are receiving disability benefits. The government
argues that these individuals are not disabled and that information on
Facebook proves their case. But can the government access this information
without "friending" the suspect first? Facebook says no, but
the government says yes. Facebook has appealed an earlier ruling in favor
of the government.
This case applies to anyone who is ever charged with a crime. Enforcement
officers and others who work to gather evidence against you must follow
certain laws and regulations. If these laws or regulations are not carefully
followed, any evidence that was gathered may not be allowed in court.
Determining whether or not these rules were followed can be difficult and,
as outlined above, these rules can change. As a result, it is wise for
those who are charged with a crime to seek the counsel of an experienced
criminal defense lawyer.
Source: The New York Times, "
Forced to Hand Over Data, Facebook Files Appeal," Vindu Goel and James C. McKinley Jr., June 26, 2014