New York's top court rejects Facebook search warrant challenge

Tue Apr 4, 2017 3:59pm EDT
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By Jonathan Stempel

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York state's highest court on Tuesday rejected Facebook Inc's (FB.O: Quote) challenge to 381 search warrants to uncover suspected widespread Social Security disability fraud by its customers.

By a 5-1 vote, the Court of Appeals said it lacked jurisdiction to hear Facebook's appeal over warrants obtained by the office of Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.

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 including Apple (AAPL.O: Quote), Google (GOOGL.O: Quote), Microsoft (MSFT.O: Quote) and Twitter (TWTR.N: Quote) that supported Facebook's appeal.

Prosecutors had in July 2013 obtained the warrants ordering Facebook to turn over account information belonging to people suspected of criminal fraud.

Sixty-two of the Facebook users were later indicted in the probe, out of 134 overall, court papers show.

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

Facebook argued that the warrants were overbroad, and that Vance went too far by prohibiting the Menlo Park, California-based company from telling users that the warrants existed.

It complied with the warrants after prosecutors threatened to hold it in criminal contempt, but continued the appeal.   Continued...

A man poses with a magnifier in front of a Facebook logo on display in this illustration taken in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, December 16, 2015. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic