Internet civil liberties advocates did not get the news they wanted from New York’s top court on Tuesday.
Facebook hit the end of the line in a long fight with New York prosecutors when the State Court of Appeals, in a 5-to-1 ruling, upheld lower court rulings that New York law does not allow a social media company to appeal a judge’s decision to issue search warrants in a criminal case.
Facebook had argued that it should have a right to appeal such decisions, particularly if the company believes those warrants violate the constitutional rights of its users, as James C. McKinley Jr. writes.
This is a concern for big internet companies that hold information for billions of users. In recent years, prosecutors have become more aggressive about asking for so-called bulk warrant orders. These sometimes come with open-ended requests for access to users’ data, meaning there is little or no time limit involved.
Internet companies argue that these open-ended requests, which often come with gag orders prohibiting the companies from informing users about the warrants, are excessive. But law enforcement officials argue that the companies, as service providers, have no standing in court to argue against the warrants. In addition, prosecutors say they often need the gag orders to prevent their targets from learning that they are under investigation.
For now, at least, the courts are siding with law enforcement.
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