DAPL protesters try to block warrant for Facebook info

How far can the government go when getting information through a Facebook page? That's the question in Bellingham, and it could have far reaching implications when it comes to online privacy.

Authorities in Whatcom County want access to a wide swath of information embedded on the Facebook page of a local protest group.

It all began with a demonstration back in February.

Protesters blocked Interstate 5 in Bellingham in solidarity with the Standing Rock Indian Tribe and their fight to defeat an oil pipeline proposed on their land.

A three-car accident ensued with two people hurt, and prosecutors want those responsible brought to justice.

"We are taking this seriously. We plan on charging participants who were involved. It could stem from reckless endangerment to disorderly conduct," said Deputy Whatcom County Prosecutor Eric Sigmar.

Whatcom County has requested information from the protest group's Facebook page. The warrant asks for “all profile information” including messages, videos, tags, account names and ID numbers of pretty much anybody who visited the page over a 10-day period surrounding the protest.

The protest group said the request is far too wide reaching.
  
Attorney Mike Brodsky argued in court Monday morning, saying the release of that information is an invasion of privacy and against the Constitution.

"Political speech is our most protected speech," he said. "It makes people a little bit afraid to express themselves. It makes people afraid to get on that website or to join that organization."

Authorities, however, see otherwise. They contend only information pertinent to this particular protest would be used. Anything else would be sealed.

"The return on the warrant would be reviewed by a privileged team who would sever out information not relevant to the warrant," said Sigmar.

The problem with that, according to Brodsky, is -- who would be on that "privileged team" and how do we know they can be trusted?

The judge is expected to make his ruling later this summer.

© 2017 KING-TV


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