Sunday 23 October 2016

Disability benefit fraud investigators allowed to access claimants Facebook photos

Sarah-Jane Murphy

Published 24/07/2015 | 17:36

Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg
Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg
Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer of Facebook Inc., center, Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook, center left, and Robert Greifeld, chief executive officer of Nasdaq OMX Group Inc., center right, applaud on the day of Facebook's IPO

Facebook users, who are suspected of committing disability benefit fraud, have had their photos handed over to the police.

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A record number of search warrants were issued by prosecutors in New York, who will examine the photos for evidence of physical activity that contradicts an individual's disabled status.

Prosecutors have already successfully used photos of people riding jet skis, playing golf and doing karate to secure convictions for benefit fraud.

Facebook, supported by Microsoft and Google, initially did not comply with search warrants from the New York state prosecutor.

They argued that government data requests should be narrower and more specific in scope.

But the New York court of appeal forced Facebook to comply, stating that the warrants could not be challenged.

The New York district attorney's office said that the massive investigation into benefit fraud has already yielded €22.7m ($25m).

The investigation began in 2013 and initially targeted state employees including police officers and firefighters who allegedly feigned illness following the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York City.

"I can only express my disgust at the actions of the individuals involved in this scheme,” New York Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said at the time.

A Facebook spokesman said that overly broad warrants are unconstitutional and "raise important concerns about the privacy of people's online information."

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