Social Media and the Law Archives

Major Setback for Privacy Advocates in Facebook Warrant Case

In a major setback for privacy advocates who seek to preserve the confidentiality of consumer data, the New York Supreme Court recently ruled that Facebook lacks legal standing to challenge search warrants on behalf of its users. The case pits Facebook against the government, which had requested account data for 381 Facebook users as part of an in-depth investigation into over 1,000 people who allegedly cost the government over $400 million in benefits due to false disability claims. The government demanded that Facebook hand over all of the account information of the 381 users and sought to place a gag order on Facebook, forbidding it from notifying any user that his or her account information was being investigated. Facebook challenged the warrant, arguing that the request for the data was overbroad. In fact, although the government only ended up primarily using photos from 130 user accounts and only 62 users were charged with a crime, it held all of the photos, biographical information, and message history from all 381 accounts. Facebook asked that the government's request be limited, as holding such a massive amount of information was unnecessary in Facebook's eyes. Facebook also argued that the gag order violated the company's privacy policies, and it owed a legal obligation to its users to notify them if their information was being used by a third-party. The court rejected Facebook's arguments. The court reasoned that the government's request was lawful because procedural safeguards were in place to ensure the constitutionality of any seized evidence, such as probable cause and an examination of the evidence's admissibility. The court further stated that the government held the authority to gather such a large amount of data because, as the court put it: "In the course of a long-term criminal investigation, the relevance or irrelevance of items seized within the scope of a search warrant may be unclear and require further investigatory steps." As for the gag request, the court held that any knowledge of the investigation outside of the court could have resulted in the tampering with vital evidence, as users could have altered profile information had they known their accounts were being investigated. The court's decision stands as a warning to social media users to be wary of the vast amounts of data they upload to companies who might be asked to turn that data over to the government.

The Internet of Things is Here and Now

Waking up for the workday, you walk into the kitchen to see a fresh cup of coffee that has been programmed to brew based on your phone's alarm clock. Your MP3 player automatically starts playing some smooth jazz, after having learned that when you wake up this early, you typically play that type of music. Your fridge sends you a notification that you are out of milk and that your daily water consumption has increased. Sitting in your self-driving car, which is already pre-programmed to get you to work as it has synced with your calendar, you realize you forgot to lock the doors. Don't worry - Smart Locks have detected a lack of movement in your home and locked the doors for you after having turned down the thermostat automatically to save energy.

Protect Your Personal and Business Digital Assets: New Law Aims to Help

When your life flashes before your eyes moments before you die, you likely won't be thinking about your tweet count, your Farmville assets, your Bitcoins, your iTunes play-lists, or how many "likes" your last status update received. However, a new law is aimed at helping your family access and manage those accounts after you die. Called the "Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act," it is a model law, serving as a blueprint to help states address this growing issue.

What Rhode Island's New Social Media Law Means to Your Business

Social media's surge in popularity has caused a sea change in how people act and behave, as well as the image they portray, whether intentionally or not. It didn't take long for employers to recognize social media as a useful tool to learn more about potential new hires.

Texting in the Workplace: Why Employers Must Tread Cautiously

By now, most employers have systems in place to organize and maintain emails that their employees send and receive. These systems are critical for business reasons and compliance purposes. However, many employers are ignoring or turning a blind eye to a growing means of workplace communication: texting.

Social Media Issues in the Workplace: Key Risks and Trends

Perhaps no greater transformative change has occurred in workplace communications than with the advent and use of social media. The burden falls to employers to stay informed and up-to-date on current trends regarding social media issues for their businesses and their employees. 

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