US Tech Firms Support Facebook in Gag Order Case

In a court submitted document, the firms said it was "far from clear" that the Facebook gag order had served a compelling government interest.

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Facebook revealed in June that the U.S. government obtained gag orders last year preventing the company from telling its users that their data had been turned over to prosecutors. The data was submitted as part of an investigation of fraudulent claims for U.S. federal disability benefits.

The court said the defendants’ Facebook accounts contained evidence showing that they were healthy. The social media site’s first appeal against the warrant, which was “by far the largest” by a government entity, was unsuccessful.

After a New York judge agreed to make the process public, Facebook publicly admitted to turning over private data such as photographs and messages of at least 381 people involved in the fraud trial (of which 62 were later charged).

Now tech firms such as Microsoft, Google, Twitter and LinkedIn have taken a stand against such processes, arguing in a court-submitted document seen by the BBC that they violate the First Amendment’s freedom of speech and “unreasonable searches and seizures” protected under the Fourth Amendment.

Many tech companies — without Facebook’s litigation resources — face similar legal battles over the protection of user data. In the document filed to a New York court, the firms said they have “a strong interest in the resolution of the issues in this case” and that it was “far from clear” that the Facebook gag order had served a compelling government interest.

The other companies included in the document are:

  • Yelp
  • Dropbox
  • Pinterest
  • Foursquare
  • Kickstarter
  • Meetup
  • Tumblr