Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) was set back by a New York Judge while fighting for the data protection as the Judge held that the social networking company is just “a virtual custodian or storage facility for millions of tenant users and their information,” according to a report from the Wall Street Journal. Facebook and the Manhattan district attorney’s office are in scuffle over government’s demand for accessing the contents of hundreds of Facebook accounts.

Facebook Inc

“Hence, the search warrants authorize the search and seizure of digital information contained within the Facebook server,” the judge wrote in the decision unsealed Thursday.

Judge orders Facebook to maintain secrecy

According to Facebook, the prosecutors demanded almost complete data on 381 people, even the pages they liked and their private messages. A document unearthed on Wednesday revealed that the social networking company has accused the Manhattan prosecutors of breaching the constitutional right of its users, who are entitled to be safe from unreasonable searches.

The case is based on the Fourth Amendment that includes the right to be free from unreasonable searches by the government.

New York judge, also, ruled that the company should not inform the affected users to maintain the secrecy of the investigation and even the individuals are not allowed to fight the data requests themselves.

Facebook has no right to protect its data

This is not the first time, when this case is being fought in the court.  The United States Supreme Court has already issued a major decision on similar privacy issues even before the Manhattan judge started listening to Facebook case.

According to the prosecutors, the information collected by the Facebook accounts in January and February helped to impeach more than 130 police officers, firefighters and other civil servants on charges related to defrauding the Social Security system with fake disability claims. Facebook photos showed supposedly disabled people riding personal watercraft, teaching karate, deep-sea fishing and pursuing other vigorous activities. The photos strengthened other evidence, like wiretapped  conversations, that prosecutors gathered in their three-year investigation.

Facebook lawyers are ready to appeal in the appellate courts because they have become frustrated by the ambit of district attorney’s search warrants and by the Judge’s ruling that Facebook does not stands a chance to challenge the warrants.