Several major US technology companies have rallied to Facebook’s defence, as it challenged a New York court order that demanded the personal data of over 300 account holders.
Dropbox, Google, Microsoft, Twitter and several others have all filed briefs with information to supporting Facebook’s claims. The briefs allows a party not involved in a case to submit unsolicited information to assist court proceedings.
The briefs argue that the court action against Facebook violated the First Amendment of the US Constitution, which protects freedom of speech.
The companies also declared that the court’s actions had breached the Fourth Amendment, which protects people against “unreasonable searches and seizures” of personal belongings.
In their submissions to the court, the companies claimed they all had “strong interest in the resolution of the issues in the case” as they have also faced similar legal challenges over protection of their users’ data.
The court battle was sparked when back in June Facebook revealed it had been forced to give a New York court personal data belonging to 381 people involved in a fraud trial that took place back in 2013.
Using private messages, photographs and other information supplied by Facebook, the court only managed to prosecute 62 of the 381 people, who they found were claiming US federal disability benefits despite being able bodied.
The result raised questions as to why the court needed the data of hundreds of users when only a small proportion were charged.
Thus far, this has been the largest request Facebook has ever received from a government body. The company did initially try to resist the court’s warrant but its appeal was denied.
While the court order was actioned last year, the details of the case only came out on 20 July when Facebook was able to overturn a gagging order.
The order had forced Facebook to remain silent about the case and not reveal to the several hundred users that their data had been passed onto the court.
Worryingly, such a tactic was also used by the US National Security Agency during its PRISM operations, where the agency forced a number of technology companies to hand over data.
The gagging order has particularly enraged the companies supporting Facebook who believe the proceedings should not have been kept private by the court.
This belief is shared by the New York and American Civil Liberties Unions who declared that “Facebook users are at risk of dilution of their constitutional rights”.
V3 contacted several of the organisations that have defended Facebook, but so far none of the companies have commented.
Concerns over data remain a major concern for both social media networks and their users. With the spectre of PRISM, and GCHQ admitting to monitoring emails, these worries are not likely to dissipate any time soon.