Before You Post THAT Picture, Read This....

by Lori R. Keeton

How Private is Your Facebook Account?

If you are going to attempt to collect disability, you may want to hold off on posting pictures of yourself boating, fishing and the like.

Case in Point?  This ex-police officer who posted photos of himself riding a jet ski despite his claims of being disabled on the job in 9/11. He was convicted of taking over $200,000 in disability payments.

At issue this week in New York state’s highest court was not the jet skiing ex-officer per se but the method the District Attorney’s office used to get the damaging information.

On Tuesday, New York state’s highest court rejected Facebook’s challenge to 381 search warrants to uncover suspected widespread Social Security disability fraud by its customers.

The warrants were served in July 2013 and included the accounts of numerous retired police officers and firefighters suspected of feigning illness after the World Trade Center attacks.

Facebook argued that the warrants were overly broad and also objected to being ordered not to tell the targets about the warrants.

After being threatened with criminal contempt, Facebook complied with the subpoenas but continued with the appellate process.

62 of the Facebook users were ultimately indicted.

The Court found that the subjects of the warrants were the proper parties to attack the warrants’ validity- not Facebook.

The lone dissenting judge emphasized that “the concern of this case … is… with the protection of the individual against the power of the government.”

The case drew the attention of the New York Civil Liberties Union, Apple, Google, Microsoft and Twitter, all of whom supported Facebook’s appeal.

Similar privacy concerns were raised this week in the case of a California physician charged with possessing child pornography after he took his computer to a Best Buy store for repair. The repair technician alerted the FBI to questionable content on the doctor’s computer resulting in a warrant being issued for the defendant’s hard drive and a search of his home. His attorneys claim that “Geek Squad” workers from Best Buy share an overly close relationship with the FBI and in fact have developed specific programs to search for this type of content and further that at least eight Best Buy employees took payments for information they turned over to the FBI between 2007 and 2012.   It remains to be seen what impact, if any, this will have on the criminal matter.


About the Author:  Lori Keeton has been practicing law in North Carolina since 1998. She regularly represents individuals and businesses in civil actions in both state and federal courts. In addition, she regularly assists her clients with corporate formations and ongoing record keeping and reporting obligations as well as with contract negotiations, drafting, and review and contractual disputes.  If you have questions or comments about this article, feel free to contact her at or 704-887-5219.


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