Facebook Fighting U.S. Government Data Requests In Court

Our team scrutinizes each request we receive individually and checks for legally valid and complete documentation from law enforcement. We regularly push back on requests that are vague or overly broad. Our recent Government Requests report here has more details.

Since last summer, we’ve been fighting hard against a set of sweeping search warrants issued by a court in New York that demanded we turn over nearly all data from the accounts of 381 people who use our service, including photos, private messages and other information. This unprecedented request is by far the largest we’ve ever received—by a magnitude of more than ten—and we have argued that it was unconstitutional from the start.

Government requests to Facebook

We’ve gone to court and repeatedly asserted that these overly broad warrants–which contain no date restrictions and allow the government to keep the seized data indefinitely–violate the privacy rights of the people on Facebook and ignore Fourth Amendment safeguards against unreasonable searches and seizures. We fought forcefully against these 381 requests and were told by a lower court that as an online service provider we didn’t even have the legal standing to contest the warrants. We complied only after the appeals court denied our application to stay this ruling, and after the prosecutor filed a motion to find us in criminal contempt.

Last Friday, we filed an appellate brief in support of our continuing efforts to invalidate these sweeping warrants and to force the government to return the data it has seized and retained. Immediately after we filed our appeal, the government moved to unseal the warrants and all court filings, which has allowed us to finally notify the people whose accounts were affected about the warrants and our ongoing legal efforts.

Facebook fighting back