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How the Facebook case applies to you

On behalf of Kenneth Krebs of Law Offices of Karlstrom & Krebs posted in Criminal Defense on Tuesday, July 1, 2014.

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 criminal charges.

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