Monday, April 25, 2011

Federal Government Is Using Search Warrants to Obtain Facebook Data -- Why This Is Good News

The federal Government has started to obtain search warrants to access the Facebook accounts of suspected criminals.  According to news reports, the Federal Government has sought a “few dozen search warrants for Facebook accounts nationwide since May 2009.”

One criminal was quoted saying, “To be honest with you, it bothers me.”

The reports include the predictable concerns about constitutional and evidentiary issues.  What is unclear is how often Facebook and other similar sites receive requests for information, and how it responds to those requests that do not rely upon a search warrant.

Nonetheless, this report is good news.  The battle over privacy rights, the Internet, and emerging technology is not so much a battle about information that is obtained, but how the government is able to access that information.  The reports that the government is seeking search warrants rather than obtaining the information without any judicial oversight is evidence that courts and the government are recognizing the significant and reasonable privacy interest in this data.

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