Merrell Law Firm, LLC

Many apps release user information without warrants

Some people in Alabama might be surprised at how much information companies that make apps will provide to law enforcement. The only states that require probable cause and a warrant to search private user data are California, Utah and Washington.

Home security company Ring, which has been purchased by Amazon, goes a step further, openly sharing data with law enforcement. The company's security services allow users to see who is ringing their doorbell. However, Ring comes with a communication portal for law enforcement that permits them to request the footage. If users say no, law enforcement only needs to go to the company to request the data. Many other companies only require a subpoena to release user information, including Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Some companies only offer limited information without a warrant, but many will turn over IP addresses along with names and contact information in response to a subpoena. Snapchat says it will share any information it considers necessary.

Reports from some of the companies show that those requests and information sharing is not rare. In the first half of 2017, Uber says it received more than 1,200 requests from the state government and 156 from federal. There were warrants in only 231 cases. In 2017, Uber provided data on thousands of accounts owned by both drivers and passengers.

Evidence obtained electronically could be used against a person in a criminal case. Unlike evidence gathered from searching a person's house, this evidence is unlikely to be dismissed if it is obtained without a warrant. People who are facing criminal charges might want to meet with a criminal defense attorney in order to build a strategy to combat the allegations.

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