Social giant seeking return of data on over 300 individuals in huge legal battle.
Facebook is locked in a legal brawl, in what is said to be the ‘largest ever’ US court order, to submit data belonging to almost 400 profiles involved in a benefit fraud trial to the government body.
As per the order, the Facebook submitted photographs, private messages and other information to a New York court in 2013, while arguing that such a request is unlawful as it breaches the Fourth Amendment.
In its latest petition, Facebook filed to press to nullify the sweeping search warrants and return the info of the other 300 individuals that is still being taken by authorities.
Facebook legal adviser Chris Sonderby said that the latest unprecedented request is by far the largest ever received – by a magnitude of more than ten – and has argued that it was unconstitutional from the start.
"Of the 381 people whose accounts were the subject of these warrants, 62 were later charged in a disability fraud case," Sonderby added.
"This means that no charges will be brought against more than 300 people whose data was sought by the government without prior notice to the people affected."
However, prosecutors argue that given the magnitude of the case authorities required access to suspects’ Facebook accounts.
Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance Jr’s spokesperson Joan Vollero said that the current case was a massive scheme involving as many as 1,000 people who defrauded the federal government of more than $400m in benefits.
"The defendants in this case repeatedly lied to the government about their mental, physical and social capabilities," Vollero added
"Their Facebook accounts told a different story."
Facebook noted that the US government had obtained ‘gag orders’, not allowing it to notify the account holders of being forced to hand over their data.
The judge who opened the investigation noted: "Facebook could best be described as a digital landlord, a virtual custodian or storage facility for millions of tenant users and their information.
"Hence, the search warrants authorise the search and seizure of digital information contained within the Facebook server," he added.