The Department of Justice is digging deep into the private accounts of a few Facebook users, as it was revealed today that they're currently probing for information on several "anti-administration activists who have spoken out at organized events, and who are generally very critical of this administration's policies."
That quote comes by way of CNN, who reports that the Trump administration's lawyers are currently looking into three specific Facebook users. One of them, Emmelia Talarico, organized the "disruptj20" Inauguration Day protests on Facebook. If the DOJ were to get their way, they would have access to Talarico's entire Facebook presence, including passwords, private information, security questions, credit cards, and more. More worryingly, since Talarico was the one who organized the protest, the DOJ would also then have access to information about the 6,000 or so who participated in the planning of and discussion around the protests.
It's troubling to see that the government is so interested in digging into the private life of one citizen, and calls to mind the actions of the House Un-American Activities Committee that sought to "investigate alleged disloyalty and subversive activities on the part of private citizens, public employees, and those organizations suspected of having communist ties," as Wikipedia describes it.
The ACLU is, quite understandably, unhappy with such an alarming request, and have filed a motion to have their search warrants quashed in court. In their motion, they argue that "[permitting] government officials to comb through 90 days’ worth of personal messages concerning political activity and associations — some of which are aimed at protesting the policies of the very administration on whose behalf the government officials would be acting in searching Intervenors’ records — is an unjustified invasion of privacy."
Thus far, the DOJ has remained mum on exactly why they're pumping Facebook for information. That being said, they're also digging into two more accounts: Lacy MacAuley and Legba Carrefour. CNN says that Carrefour has already pushed back against the warrants, and though he does describe himself as a political activist, he denies having participated in any Inauguration Day riots or protests. That said, he also did acknowledge that he "participated in or helped to organize dozens of demonstrations and events of various types in service of political causes."
MacAuley spoke with BuzzFeed, describing how shocking it was to get an e-mail from Facebook about the probe. She called it an "absolutely ridiculous invasion of privacy” and a “really dangerous move towards fascism." She went on to say, "Jeff Sessions doesn’t need to see my family photos. Jeff Sessions doesn’t need to see my conversations with a romantic partner. Jeff Sessions does not need to see people sending me their private information."
Additionally, it's worth pointing out that these search warrants were issued all the way back in February of this year. News18, CNN's Indian affiliate, says that the only reason we're hearing about it now is because the DOJ handed Facebook a gag order at the same time, blocking them from notifying the involved parties about the probe into their private information. We now await a proper response from Facebook about whether they're going to comply with the search warrants or not.