It seems as though Google, Microsoft and other tech companies are backing Facebook in the social media company's fight with the New York County District Attorney's office over protecting users' data from government investigations.
The companies filed a number of arguments, saying that bulk warrants like the one asking Facebook to release user data for over 381 users to the DA's office was very problematic.
"Unless Facebook is able to assert its subscribers' constitutional rights -- and any of its own rights -- the legality of the government's actions with respect to those subscribers will escape review altogether. And had the government chosen to indict no one, no one would have been the wiser," said a letter filed from Google, Pinterest, Microsoft and Yelp.
The 2013 probe from the NYDA's office is an example of the type of broad request that Facebook is appealing, aiming to prevent similar things from happening in the future.
Prosecutors first obtained the search warrant from a judge in July 2013. After Facebook attempted to block the searches, the judge issued Facebook a gag order, preventing it from notifying users their records were being searched.
Mass surveillance such as this has been publically criticized by Facebook and other large tech companies, especially following the revelations that ex-National Security Agency employee Edward Snowden leaked last year.
"Just because that's the way we use technology nowadays, I don't think it means people are giving up their rights to privacy," said Mariko Hirose, a lawyer for the New York Civil Liberties Union. "Courts should and are recognizing the realities of the digital age."
Evidence collected during the search eventually led to 130 individuals being prosecuted for defrauding the Social Security system. According to Facebook, while individuals were found to be guilty, the scope of the search was far too broad, and too many innocent people were searched without reason. Of the 381 people whose accounts were covered under the warrants, Facebook said 62 were later charged in the fraud case.
Facebook "is at once a message board, an email service, a diary, a calendar, a photo book, a video archive, and much more," said the civil liberties group in a brief. In this vein, according to the group, Facebook should not be treated as one constant stream of information.
In an increasingly digital age, more and more criminal evidence can be found online, prompting government organizations to turn to technology to find evidence against unlawful activity.
Companies such as Dropbox, LinkedIn, Google and Microsoft are joining forces to argue that tech companies such as Facebook have to make choices between going against government wishes, or betraying their customers trust.