The California Supreme Court ruled this week that social media companies can be forced to hand over content to criminal defense prepping for trial.  Specifically, the attorney in a murder trial was trying to get info from Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Previously, Facebook has pretty much just ignored the request citing federal privacy laws.  What the ruling means is that they would have to hand over anything requested that was posted as public and is still public when they get the request (by subpoena).

It all stemmed from a murder case.  The defense contends the witness was one of the defendant’s former girlfriends and was jealous of the guy, so her testimony could be questionable.  An appellate court had ruled that the social media companies didn’t have to turn over the info.

“Federal law does not allow private parties to obtain the content of communications (example: messages, timeline posts, photos) using subpoenas. See the Stored Communications Act, 18 U.S.C. § 2701 et seq.” – Facebook Help Center

It directs people seeking information to have the person that posted it download it from the site and provide it.  Obviously, only cooperating parties are going to do that.

The defendant’s lawyers rejected that argument, arguing that “the SCA violates their constitutional rights under the Fifth and Sixth Amendments to the United States Constitution to the extent it precludes compliance with the pretrial subpoenas in this case.”

Here’s the full opinion from the court.