Facebook appeal over NY search warrants fails

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NY state's highest court on Tuesday rejected Facebook Inc's FB.O challenge to 381 search warrants to uncover suspected widespread Social Security disability fraud by its customers. However, while being forced to comply with search warrants seeking access to private accounts, Facebook can not warn users about the disclosure.

The ruling is also a disappointment for civil libertarians and social media companies as they were expecting that court will come up with new legal guidelines for search warrants.

Facebook's appeal against 381 warrants for information from the accounts of its users was rejected by a NY court on the ground that earlier orders refusing to quash the warrants issued in a criminal proceeding could not be appealed.

New York's State Court of Appeals ruled against the company, saying that it lacked the right to appeal, but leaving unanswered whether the warrants were properly authorized under the 1986 Stored Communications Act.

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

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Facebook complied but challenged the warrants.

New York's highest court punted Tuesday on a challenge by Facebook of bulk seizure of users' accounts by Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance. Microsoft, Google and Twitter, as well as internet privacy advocates such as the New York Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, supported Facebook's appeal.

Facebook asked the appeals court to treat the Supreme Court's first order denying its motion to quash the warrants as an appealable order denying a motion to quash subpoenas, but Judge Stein found the argument "unpersuasive".

Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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