Facebook has been instructed by a state appeals court that it cannot challenge the search warrants used by prosecutors to request information from the site about users who law enforcement suspects has committed a crime. Some are arguing that the ruling can be seen as a partial denial of the privacy of users.
Date helped prosecutors to dig out truth
The Manhattan-based court ruled that only users can challenge the warrants, and then only after the prosecutors have collected the evidence, which, in this case, covers 381 users’ photos, private messages and other data.
According to Reuters, the Manhattan District Attorney’s office served warrants to Facebook in 2013 to try and collect evidence against dozens of users, who were later charged with Social Security Fraud. The warrant was issued against many people, including police officers and fire fighters, who “allegedly feigned illness” after Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, says the report.
“In many cases, evidence on their Facebook accounts directly contradicted the lies the defendants told to the Social Security Administration,” the spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office said. She added that approximately $25 million in fines had been collected from the people involved in the investigation.
Prosecutors said on investigating the Facebook pages of the charged public employees, many who claimed to be ill were found riding jet skis, playing golf and participating in martial arts events.
Facebook and other Internet firms worried
On Tuesday, the court said only defendants in criminal cases can challenge warrants. A Facebook spokesman said the company does not agree with the decision, and may appeal further.
Facebook provided the data to the prosecutors last year, after its appeal that the warrants breached users’ Fourth Amendment rights was turned down by a state judge. But the social networker went ahead with the appeal.
Other internet firms such as Google and Microsoft supported Facebook in the case, arguing the verdict would set a wrong standard, ensuring prosecutors access to all forms of digital data.
After the revelations from former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden over the wide-ranging online surveillance practices, Internet companies are collectively fighting U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies to protect user data.
As of around 10.30 am EDT, Facebook shares were down 1.50% at $96.91, and year to date, the stock is up over 22%.