Twitter ordered to hand over WikiLeaks probe info

November 12, 2011 4:41 am


Social networking site Twitter
WASHINGTON, Nov 11 – A US judge has ordered Twitter to disclose information about three account holders to US officials conducting a probe into WikiLeaks.

In a 60-page opinion issued Thursday, US District Court Judge Liam O’Grady upheld a ruling by a US magistrate judge concerning the Twitter accounts of Birgitta Jonsdottir, a member of the Icelandic parliament, US computer researcher Jacob Appelbaum and Rop Gonggrijp, a Dutch volunteer for WikiLeaks.

Magistrate Judge Theresa Buchanan ordered the San Francisco-based Twitter in March to hand over information about the three users of the service, rejecting arguments that the move violated freedom of speech and privacy.

The ruling came after the US Justice Department obtained a court order seeking information from the Twitter accounts as it considers action against WikiLeaks, which has released a trove of secret US diplomatic and military documents.

On Thursday, O’Grady backed Buchanan’s argument that when the three Twitter users signed up for the micro-blogging service, they gave up any reasonable expectation of privacy.

Buchanan said the three “already made their Twitter posts and associations publicly available” and voluntarily provided information to Twitter pursuant to the website’s privacy policy.

O’Grady also rejected a request to unseal any orders that may have been issued to service providers other than Twitter, saying “the government’s interest in secrecy outweighs the interests favoring disclosure.”

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, which has been representing Jonsdottir along with the American Civil Liberties Union, said it was “gravely worried” by the ruling.

“When you use the Internet, you entrust your online conversations, thoughts, experiences, locations, photos and more to dozens of companies who host or transfer your data,” EFF legal director Cindy Cohn said in a statement.

“In light of that technological reality, we are gravely worried by the court’s conclusion that records about you that are collected by Internet services like Twitter, Facebook, Skype and Google are fair game for warrantless searches by the government.”

Jonsdottir, in remarks released by EFF, said that “with this decision, the court is telling all users of online tools hosted in the US that the US government will have secret access to their data.

“I am very disappointed in today’s ruling because it is a huge backward step for the United States’ legacy of freedom of expression and the right to privacy,” she said.


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