According to an appeals court decision on Tuesday, Facebook cannot fight off the 381 search warrants which have been issued in a criminal fraud investigation. The warrants are seeking to look at the criminal’s Facebook postings, an extensive request causing unease for the social network.
The state ruling of the Supreme Court Appellate Division is not giving prosecutors more information than they already had, as Facebook had previously lost other rulings and data had already been turned over. But this particular case has been under close scrutiny from social media companies and civil libertarians.
Facebook’s latest statement on the issue says the company is currently considering whether or not it should continue fighting the prosecutors off.
A Facebook spokesperson said that their reluctance to grant the government such extensive search warrants where they get to indefinitely keep the account information of hundreds of people comes from considering them unconstitutional. Moreover, privacy issues and important concerns about people’s online information will rise as well.
On the other hand, the warrants issued received a unanimous decision from the Appellate Division’s First Department, and following them through led to building a massive case of fraud for disabilities benefits against retired agents in the police and fire department retirees.
According to Joan Vollero, district attorney’s office spokeswoman, many cases were built on evidence found on their Facebook accounts, which came in direct opposition to the false claims the defendants made. For example, pictures contradicted the lies they told the Social Security Administration about the psychological devastation that doesn’t allow them to work.
It turns out that a large number of the defendants had posted on Facebook pictures or statuses about their full and active lives: travelling overseas, flying helicopters, and martial arts courses are just some of them.
Facebook’s concern over the bulk warrants was acknowledged by the five-judge panel, but that didn’t stop them from issuing them, even though only 62 people out of the 381 warrants have been charged. Prosecutors offered a document of 93 pages detailing on why these accounts were targeted out of the 1,000 people part of the initial investigation.
Facebook was backed up by other online players, such as Google or Twitter, all of whom thought prosecutors had cast too wide a net. Civil liberties unions have also joined the fight on Facebook’s side.
Image Source: SCPR