Technologist - The FindLaw Legal Technology Blog

Facebook Keeps Getting More Government Subpoenas

While for most people, Facebook and Instagram are just easy ways to keep up with friends and family; for many others, it's a whole lot more, and the government knows that.

From businesses to social media influencers to con artists and even recruiters from extremist and criminal organizations, Facebook and social media, generally, has become a strange place. You might not see much of it, depending on what you're doing and your settings, but it's there and alarming, and if you believe the companies running the sites, it's nearly impossible to completely stop. Not surprisingly, law enforcement agencies have increasingly subpoenaed Facebook to turn over data without even notifying the subject user(s).

Facebook Snitch

Recently, Facebook disclosed another report on the demands for user data they receive from law enforcement agencies, many of which come with a gag order prohibiting the notification of the user(s) whose data is sought. In short, Facebook does claim to verify but the legality of the requests, but, in the end, routinely complies.

As reported in TechCrunch, the most recent Facebook report shows that the government's demands for data have increased by 26%, from about 82K to 104K. Notably, most of these were search warrants, and many involved issues of national security.

Social Media Policing

Although Facebook and the tech industry may look at these government subpoenas and be up in arms, when it comes right down to it, there's a lot of sketchy stuff happening on social media, and that number of data demands seems shockingly low. Sure, there might be a hefty burden on the companies to comply, but the alternatives are worse.

Furthermore, the manner in which these reports are presented as shocking is somewhat suspect, as they seem to be doing so to be transparent, which is a good thing. But if the majority of these demands are valid search warrants, then why is it such a big deal to Facebook or the tech community?

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