So it shouldn't be that surprising that a New York state court made the police's job a little easier by ruling that Facebook must turn over photos, private messages, and personal account information in response to legitimate warrants. The ruling was in regards to 381 warrants served on the social media company by New York prosecutors, but could have much larger online privacy implications.
Fraud and the Fourth Amendment
Specifically, the Manhattan District Attorney's office was investigating dozens of public employees who were receiving disability benefits, including police officers and firefighters who claimed illnesses from the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. According to prosecutors, Facebook photos showed allegedly disabled people playing golf, participating in martial arts competitions, and riding jet skis. Bloomberg is reporting that 108 people have already pleaded guilty to Social Security fraud, and must pay back $24.7 million in ill-gotten disability benefits.
Although Facebook had already turned over the requested information, the company challenged the warrants on the basis they were overly broad. But the New York State Supreme Court held that only the individuals themselves could move to suppress evidence gained from the search, and that Facebook must turn over evidence when requested. The social media site is considering another appeal to the decision.
Facebook has been around long enough that we should all know it can get us into trouble with the law, but maybe this is a good time to recap:
And if you're interested in avoiding being the victim of a crime, don't post pictures of yourself with large sums of cash on Facebook.