Facebook loses search warrant challenge in New York court

Facebook loses search warrant challenge in New York court

NY state's highest court has rejected Facebook's challenge to bulk search warrants ordering the social media giant to turn over information from hundreds of user accounts in connection with a fraud investigation.

Menlo Park, California-based Facebook challenged the warrants, which it said were overbroad.

The court ruled against Facebook 5-1, saying state criminal procedures do not authorize its appeal.

Photos, conversations and other information obtained through the warrants were used by the district attorney for Manhattan to indict 130 police officers and government employees who used fake or exaggerated ailments related to the fallout of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.

The court papers reveal that 62 Facebook users have already been indicted in the investigation. After the Appellate Division denied Facebook's application for a stay, it complied with the warrants and provided the requested data, which led to 63 account holders being charged in the disability fraud.

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Mariko Hirose, of the New York Civil Liberties Union, is disappointed the court didn't tackle the underlying issue of whether the subpoenas themselves were constitutional, WCBS 880's Alex Silverman reported. The Appellate Division order was on Tuesday upheld by the Court of Appeals.

The one dissenting judge, Rowan Wilson, expressed concern that people swept up in the warrants included high school students accused of nothing worse than knowing people involved in the investigation.

"Although seizing social media content to help curtain widespread disabilities fraud may seem to some a good bargain", Wilson wrote, "the concern of this case ... is not with crime waves, but with the protection of the individual against the power of the government".

The 5-1 decision, in which one judge recused himself, upheld a decision by a lower NY court that would not allow Facebook to appeal search warrants issued for user information in a criminal case.

The district attorney's office told WCBS 880 that it is pleased with the outcome.

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