Science & Technology

Twitter Goes to Court To Defend User Privacy


In a world in which companies seemingly race each other to prove their willingness to "cooperate" with law enforcement (read that as "throw their customers under the wheels of the prosecutorial juggernaut"), it's refreshing to see the occasional company make a rare stand against official inquisitors. Today, a nod of appreciation is due Twitter, which is battling against the Manhattan DA on behalf of the privacy of one of its users.

According to the ACLU's Blog of Rights:

Twitter has filed a motion in state court in New York seeking to quash a court order requiring it to turn over information about one of its users and his communications on Twitter. This particular case involves a Twitter user, Malcolm Harris, who is being prosecuted by the District Attorney's Office in Manhattan for disorderly conduct in connection with the Occupy Wall Street protest that occurred on the Brooklyn Bridge last year.

As the ACLU points out, prosecutors and other government agents have become increasingly enthusiastic about trawling through the wide and very revealing trail many of us leave as we participate in the online world. A few tweets or status updates can mean a whole lot of gravy when properly presented by an ambitious bureaucrat. Very often, ISPs and social media companies turn over the delicate data before users even know the government has come a-calling. In this case, the court even ruled that Malcolm Harris had no standing to protect the privacy of his own information.

So, if Twitter didn't go to bat for him, he was pretty much screwed.

Fortunately, Twitter is developing something of a track record as a company that is willing to fight for its customers, against governments.

That's a combative example that other companies might want to consider emulating.

Update: Link added to illustrate "cooperation" with law enforcement.