Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ:FB) is entangled in a fierce legal battle over a court order that threatens to affect its ability to protect people’s privacy online. The tech giant has moved to court to block an order that prevents it from letting users know whenever law enforcement agencies want to gain access to their online information.
Prosecutors in the case are trying to block Facebook and other companies from giving users a heads up whenever search warrants are issued for their data online. It is common practice for prosecutors to push for non-disclosures in case of concerns that a tip off could result in key evidence being destroyed by suspects. However, the Constitution can protect targets of an investigation in case their rights are under threat.
The tech giant in its appeal in the D.C Court of Appeals has argued that the new order is in violation of First Amendment protection. Tech giants with access to troves of people’s data have also come to Facebook’s support arguing that government‘s access to people’s data in emails and social media accounts in secret is illegal.
The timing of Facebook’s appeal suggests that the warrants in question relate to investigations on demonstrations during President Trump’s inauguration. Peaceful demonstrations turned violent in January resulting in the arrest of more than 200 people after property was damaged in downtown Washington and police injured. The warrants in question are pushing for contents of communications for a three month period in each request.
Facebook in its public court filings argues that it should be able to notify users in advance whenever search warrants are issued for their data because they are already aware of the investigation. The American Civil Liberties Union has already echoed the sentiments reiterating that affected parties should have an opportunity to challenge issued warrants in court.
Facebook tussle in D.C Court over government access to people’s data is not something new. The likes of Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Alphabet Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOGL) have also faced off with federal prosecutors pushing to gain access to peoples online accounts and devices.
Facebook stock was up by 0.45% in Friday’s trading session to end the day at $159.97 a share.