New York County District Attorney Cyrus Vance indicted 63 gang members involved in murders, shootings, assaults, firearms possessions and gun trafficking.
Lawyers.com videojournalist Ed Alpern reports that police busted members in some of the city’s most violent street gangs by monitoring Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites.
New York City veteran criminal defense attorney, H. Hershel Katz, pointed out that the defendants were from low income projects. He described them as “kids whose life expectancies to them is tomorrow.” Hershel warned that the cops’ investigative techniques may sound like a sexy, interesting way of getting bad guys and guns off the streets. However, their actions raise troubling question about privacy in the digital age that also affects the law abiding, general public.
Do you give up your right to and expectation of privacy when you use social media to communicate?
The Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 and Title 2 of that act, the Stored Communication Privacy Act address privacy of email and electronic communications. But social media as it exists today was not around when these laws were drafted. Hershel says this creates grey areas that tilt the scale of justice toward prosecution.
In the old days, police needed a search warrant to access certain information. But now communications on social media are fair game. Facebook even has a policy stating it will work with law enforcement, and may disclose information pursuant to subpoenas, court orders or other criminal or civil requirements.
However, Hershel does not think people have simply surrendered their privacy rights by logging on, or posting a status update. He believes common law, statutory, legislative and constitutional rights still protect our privacy and freedom from unwarranted search and seizure undefined even in the age of social media.