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August 11, 2014

Why tech sector is helping Facebook in data seizure case

Social network was ordered to hand over data to benefit fraud investigation.

By Jimmy Nicholls

Tech firms including Google, Twitter and Microsoft have filed court documents opposing the seizure of personal data from Facebook last year.

The social network handed over the data of 381 people as part of a disability benefit fraud investigation on the instructions of a New York court order, of which 62 were later charged.

The tech companies’ filing read: "Unless Facebook is able to assert its subscribers’ constitutional rights – and any of its own rights – the legality of the government’s actions with respect to those subscribers will escape review altogether.

"And had the government chosen to indict no one, no one would have been the wiser."

Other tech firms supporting the move included Dropbox, LinkedIn, Yelp, Foursquare, Kickstarter, Meetup, Pinterest and Tumblr, and a similar brief has been submitted by the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) and its national counterpart.

Facebook only revealed details of the event in June of this year, having been slapped with a temporary gagging order, and is fighting similar actions in the future on the grounds they would violate the constitutional fourth amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable search and seizure.

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"The sensitive information we share on social media, like where we’re going and who we’re seeing, our political affiliations, our hobbies and our private conversations, are owed the highest level of protection," said NYCLU executive director Donna Lieberman.

"Government entities shouldn’t be conducting broad fishing expeditions into our personal and social conversations with our family and friends with no regard to our privacy."

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