Facebook appeal over New York search warrants fails

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In the year 2013, prosecutors in Manhattan had asked for search warrants for the accounts of as many as 381 people in a case related with a disability benefits fraud case against New York City police and fire retirees.

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.

NY state's highest court on Tuesday rejected Facebook Inc's FB.O challenge to 381 search warrants to uncover suspected widespread Social Security disability fraud by its customers.

The warrants sought Facebook content including photos, videos and public messages based on probable cause that they would presumably undermine the account holders' disability claims. Facebook read the ruling not as the judges rejecting its argument for user privacy but as the court saying it lacked the jurisdiction to fully review the original order.

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New York's highest court punted Tuesday on a challenge by Facebook of bulk seizure of users' accounts by Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance. The court ruled [NY Post report] that Facebook could not contest the warrants and therefore the court could not decide the matter.

In context, "The decision is a defeat for Internet privacy advocates such as the New York Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, as well as technology and social media companies", Reuters writes. In a statement, a spokesperson said the company was disappointed by the ruling and is continuing to evaluate its legal options.

"To hold otherwise would be to impermissibly and judicially create a right to appeal in a criminal matter that has not been authorized by our legislature", Judge Leslie Stein wrote for the majority.

Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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