Facebook appeal over New York search warrants fails

Facebook appeal over New York search warrants fails

Lindsey Duncan
April 6, 2017

Facebook's appeal against 381 warrants for information from the accounts of its users was rejected by a NY court on the ground that earlier orders refusing to quash the warrants issued in a criminal proceeding could not be appealed.

The case is In re: 381 Search Warrants Directed to Facebook Inc, New York State Court of Appeals, No. 16.

The company challenged search warrants that, as part of a Social Security fraud investigation, demanded information about hundreds of its customers (including those who filed for federal disability but were seen on Facebook looking healthy). Facebook challenged the warrants, which it said were overbroad, and it was not allowed to inform the affected users.

As Reuters reports, "Among the targets were retired police officers and firefighters suspected of feigning illness after the Sept 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center".

The judge added that the court was constrained by state law to affirm the Appellate Division's order.

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But it was the intelligence community that would ultimately determine whether she could access that information, she added. Republican investigators in Congress certainly are unlikely to let the matter end there, however.

Facebook has lost more skin in its battle to avoid handing over user account details to a USA court.

The warrants, issued under America's Stored Communications Act, were going after the Facebook "account information and communications" of those under investigation.

Facebook had sought to quash warrants for users' information in connection with a criminal fraud investigation.

Thus, Microsoft, Google and Twitter and other groups like New York Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation have made a decision to stand by Facebook's appeal. The court found that only users themselves have the right to challenge warrants in criminal proceedings.

Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment.