N.Y. State’s Highest Court Rules that "Private" Facebook Photos can be Disclosed

The court of appeals ruled on Tuesday that Facebook users may be required to turn over photos and other information that might be relevant to litigation, even if that information is guarded by Facebook’s privacy settings.

Chief Judge Janet DiFiore noted the “significant controversy” over what information deserves privacy protection on Facebook. DiFiore stated that it is appropriate to require the disclosure of materials that are “reasonably calculated [to contain] material and necessary [evidence]."

The ruling came up in the Forman v. Henkin case in the New York State Court of Appeals. A Manhattan woman, Kelly Forman, was left disabled after a horse riding accident and accused the defendant horse owner, Mark Henkin, of negligence in fitting her horse with a defective stirrup that broke. To defend himself against Forman’s damages claims, Henkin sought access to the entirety of her Facebook account, including information deemed “private” through Forman’s privacy settings.

In 2014, a trial judge ordered Forman to give Henkin pre-accident photos she intended to use at trial, post-accident photos, and access to post-accident records of her messages. In 2015, a state appeals court limited the disclosure to photos intended for trial, saying Henkin could not go on a “fishing expedition” for evidence. However, DiFiore reinstated the trial judge’s ruling, saying the appeals court wrongly employed a “heightened threshold” for disclosing social media records depending on what users chose to share publicly.

“Even private materials may be subject to discovery if they are relevant,” DiFiore said.

This is an important development in the ongoing debate about privacy and what the government can have access to from an individual’s private digital information. 

Trump’s Budget Proposal Outlines Cuts to Domestic Programs, Increase in Military Spending and Adds to Federal Deficit

President Trump’s proposed fiscal budget for 2019 would slash spending on Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, transportation and other large government services — all while increasing the federal deficit.

The deal increases military spending by $195 billion over the next two years. The federal deficit is expected to bloat over the next decade, adding over $7 trillion dollars despite the cuts to domestic programs. The budget and its proposed spending are being supported by calculations and assumptions about the trajectory of the national economy by the Trump administration. These assumptions are far more optimistic than the consensus among forecasters, however. In fact, the assumptions are significantly more optimistic than what the administration itself used in budget calculations during the previous year.

The broad spending changes Trump proposed include a five percent spending deduction for the Department of Education, decreasing Health and Human Services funding — especially Planned Parenthood — and money that goes toward family planning, cuts funding for food stamps, an increased spending on immigration enforcement and deep cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency.

In addition, Trump made an infrastructure proposal on the same day that will commit a $1.5 trillion investment over the next decade. That being said, experts claim that the math of the proposal is dubious.

School Shooting in Florida Leaves 17 Casualties in its Wake

A gunman opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. last Wednesday afternoon. The casualties amounted to 17 students and adults. 14 remain hospitalized.

The gunman was a former student of the high school who was expelled last year on disciplinary charges. The AR-15 assault rifle he used in the attack was procured legally.

The shooting is one of the ten deadliest in U.S. history, adding to the number of mass killings taking place on school grounds within the country. It has renewed yet another national debate about gun control and mental illness.

President Trump addressed the nation early last Thursday, making school safety a top priority. He steered clear from a discussion of gun control. He described the event as a “scene of terrible violence, hatred and evil.”

It seems that the gunman had an apparent history of depression, mental illness and violent tendencies. In the hours after the shooting, many who knew the shooter described him as troubled individual who enjoyed being boastful about his weapons and killing animals.

An assistant football coach and security guard at the school, Aaron Feis, was selflessly shielding students from the shooter when he was shot and killed. He is being honored by the school.

Geography teacher Scott Beigel also succumbed to gunshot wounds protecting his students.

One of the survivors, a student hiding in a storage room with many others during the rampage, texted her mother "If I don't make it, I love you and I appreciate everything you did for me."

Students in the school during the shooting captured multiple grueling videos of the situation inside. Between these videos and students' communication with friends and family during the shooting, cellphones and social media help paint the full — and horrifying — picture of what these students went through to the rest of the world.