Twitter Ordered To Hand Over Data To US Government
Twitter has been ordered to hand over users’ data to the US government in the ongoing Wikileaks investigation
Twitter has been forced to hand over details of user accounts to the US authorities in a case related to the US federal government’s ongoing investigation of Wikileaks.
The order in the case, US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in United States v. Appelbaum, released on Friday, upheld an earlier order.
The ruling means that Twitter must hand over account details for three users who had contact with Wikileaks. The government also wants Twitter to provide information on Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and on Bradley Manning, a US Army private charged with providing data to Wikileaks.
Twitter is being asked to provide account information such as mailing addresses and session logs to the government.
The judge in the case, Theresa Buchanan, rejected arguments that the disclosure invades privacy, saying that the users had already made their user information public via Twitter.
The three users, American computer security researcher Jacob Appelbaum; Birgitta Jonsdottir, a member of the Icelandic parliament; and Rop Gonggrijp, a Dutch computer programmer, were supported by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
Twitter limited the data to cover the period of 15 November 2009 to 1 June 2010, according to Bloomberg.
The civil rights groups argued that the court’s order will give the government overly broad access to users’ private information.
“Our privacy in our Internet communications should not be so easily sacrificed,” said the EFF in a statement.
The ruling could have implications that go far beyond the current Wikileaks case, according to EFF legal director Cindy Cohn.
Wider privacy issues
“We’re disappointed that the court did not recognise that people using digital tools deserve basic privacy and that the government should be required to meet a high standard before it demands private information about you from the online services you use, be they Twitter, Facebook, Gmail, or Skype,” Cohn stated. “With so much of our digital private information being held by third parties – whether in the cloud or on social networking sites like Twitter – the government can track your every move and statement without you ever having a chance to protect yourself.”
As part of the US government’s investigation into WikiLeaks, a court ordered Twitter, in mid-December, to give details of accounts owned by supporters of the whistle-blower site. Twitter has protested against the subpoena and informed the individuals whose account information has been requested, while raising the possibility that other social networking players have received similar orders.
The US Department of Justice obtained a subpoena for the micro-blogging site on 14 December, requesting records going back to 1 November 2009, that are “relevant and material to an ongoing criminal investigation.”
The recent WikiLeaks controversy began when the site started publishing a trove of US diplomatic cables in late November. The release of the documents has touched off months of debate and prompted WikiLeaks supporters and opponents alike to air their differences with denial-of-service attacks while businesses such as PayPal cut ties with the whistle-blower site.
In a statement, WikiLeaks has reportedly said that some of the people named in the subpoena were key figures in helping WikiLeaks make public US military video of a 2007 airstrike that killed Iraqi civilians.