Do You Have a Right to Privacy on Social Media?
Many of us have privacy settings on social media, and restrict access to friends and family. However, is this enough for a court to find a reasonable expectation of privacy? The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court examined this question in Commonwealth v. Carrasquillo.
After accepting a friend request from an officer, the defendant posted a video to his social media that featured a person holding a gun. The undercover officer then recorded the post, which was later used in criminal proceedings against the defendant.
However, the officer did not stop there. The officer saw that the defendant posted that he was at the gym, and the officer went to the same gym and recognized the defendant as wearing the same clothing that was in his post. The officer arrested the defendant and seized a gun from his pant pocket. The defendant was charged with multiple firearms offenses.
The defendant argues that because his social media account was set to “private” he had an objectively reasonable expectation of privacy in its contents. The defendant was using Snapchat, and the only people who could see his posts are those that he accepts as friends.
The Fourth Amendment promises that every citizen is to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. The Fourth Amendment also protects a person’s reasonable expectation of privacy. What makes an expectation of privacy reasonable is dependent on the circumstances.
At the evidentiary hearing the defendant seemed to be unclear about his own privacy settings, and admitted that he accepted “friends” despite not knowing them. In fact, the officer used a false name that the defendant did not recognize, but the defendant still accepted the request. The judge found that the defendant’s privacy interest was substantially diminished because he did not adequately control access to his snapchat account.
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court found that the defendant did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in his social medial post, and no search occurred.
The moral of this case to be careful with what is posted on social media. Even if an account is set to private, it may still not be considered a reasonable expectation of privacy under the law. For more information on rights to privacy, follow Attorney DelSignore on Facebook.