Facebook has no legal grounds to object search warrants and must hand out the data of its users who were blamed for Social Security fraud in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, a New York state appeals court ruled on Tuesday.
According to the Supreme Court Appellate Division formed by a five-judge panel, the warrants could only be challenged by the defendants themselves after prosecutors gather evidence such as photos, private messages and other information from the site.
“We continue to believe that overly broad search warrants — granting the government the ability to keep hundreds of people’s account information indefinitely — are unconstitutional and raise important concerns about the privacy of people’s online information,” Jay Nancarrow, a spokesman for Facebook said in a statement.
Facebook and fellow internet giants such as Microsoft, Google, LinkedIn and Twitter argue against the case since it lays a precedent for prosecutors to demand all kinds of private information.
In 2013 the Manhattan District Attorney’s office issued warrants for the data of 381 users including more than 130 police officers and firefighters who later were indicted for claiming disabilities following the 9/11 attacks.
Prosecutors say that the Facebook pages of users showed civil workers who feigned illness on several leisure activities such as riding ski-jets and playing golf.
“In many cases, evidence on their Facebook accounts directly contradicted the lies the defendants told to the Social Security Administration,” a spokeswoman from the district attorney’s office said.
Prosecutors have secured almost 25 million from people in the fraud probe, she added.