Twitter Goes to Court To Defend User Privacy


Let's see the warrant, copper.

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.


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  1. In a world in which companies seemingly race each other to prove their willingness to “cooperate” with law enforcement

    [citation please]

    1. Most of the telecom companies. Congress passed a law (retroactively) protecting them.

      See here

  2. Twitter Goes to Court To Defend User Privacy

    “Twitter – the service which allows users to narcissistically project any random inane thoughts to the entire world – strongly believes in user privacy”

    1. What information is the government trying to find from Twitter? Can’t anybody just load the person’s feed and see everything they have tweeted?

  3. wide and very revealing trail many of us leave as we participate in the online world

    This whole social media world is bullshit. People put every last inane detail of their lives on their favorite social media outlet then get pissed when someone nails them to a wall for it. Here’s a tip cupcake, the Internet, in general, isn’t private at all.

    That being said, that doesn’t mean that the almighty state can just have anything that isn’t already available to the rest of the world. If they can’t just walk into your house and start rooting through your stuff they shouldn’t be able to do so online*.

    * – Yeah, I know that’s kinda thin.

  4. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if something like this went all the way to the Supreme court, and the Supreme Court happened to be occupied by radical constitutionalists, and they ruled 9-0 that the Manhattan DA’s office should go fuck itself very firmly? Ah, in an alternate reality, perhaps.

    1. Only if the ruling was enforceable.

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