Facebook Inc cannot challenge search warrants New York prosecutors used to get information from its site on hundreds of users suspected of Social Security fraud, a state appeals court said on Tuesday, in a decision likely making it harder for New Yorkers to keep their digital lives private.
The warrants, which applied to 381 users' photos, private messages and other account information, could only be challenged by individual defendants after prosecutors gathered evidence, the Manhattan-based court unanimously ruled.
Facebook was backed in the case by a group of large Internet companies including Google Inc and Microsoft Corp, which argued the case could set a troubling precedent giving prosecutors access to all kinds of digital information.
Internet companies are pushing back broadly against U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies' demands for customer data, in the wake of revelations by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden of wide-ranging online surveillance.
The Manhattan District Attorney's office served the warrants on Facebook in 2013, seeking information on dozens of people later indicted for Social Security fraud, including police officers and firefighters who allegedly feigned illness in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.