Facebook loses appeal on data handover warrants

Court decides social giant cannot challenge order to disclose account info in Social Security fraud

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Facebook loses appeal on data handover warrants
By  Stephen McBride Published  July 22, 2015

Facebook's challenge to past search warrants instructing it to hand over data on hundreds of suspected Social Security fraudsters has been rejected by a New York appeals court, Reuters reported.

The court held that only the individuals to whom the warrants applied would be able to take legal action on the exposure of photos, private messages and other account information, and even they would have to wait until evidence had been gathered.

The warrants were served on Facebook in 2013 by the Manhattan District Attorney's office, which was investigating 381 users for Social Security fraud. Facebook was finally forced to comply in 2014, after which many of the users were indicted, even as Facebook mounted its appeal.

Facebook was supported in its case by a number of Web companies, including Microsoft and Google, all of which are concerned with the setting of precedents that make it easier for government agencies to gain access to private data.

Facebook said through a spokesperson that it was disappointed with the decision and was considering a further appeal.

The New York District Attorney's office announced that the data seizure had allowed prosecutors to recover nearly $25 million from those indicted.

"In many cases, evidence on their Facebook accounts directly contradicted the lies the defendants told to the Social Security Administration," a spokeswoman for the DA's office said.

Information revealed in the Facebook pages accessed by prosecutors showed public-sector employees riding jet skis, playing golf or participating in martial arts events, after having claimed to be disabled.

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