Feeds

Judge: Twitter offers free speech, American style

Just don't expect privacy, too

SANS - Survey on application security programs

A New York judge has ruled that Twitter offers freedom of speech in the grand tradition of American liberty – but that won't help you when the police come knocking to take a peek at your posting history.

"It is probably safe to assume that Samuel Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, and Thomas Jefferson would have loved to tweet their opinions," Judge Matthew Sciarrino wrote in his decision, citing several founding fathers of the United States. "Those men, and countless soldiers in service to this nation, have risked their lives for our right to tweet or to post an article on Facebook; but that is not the same as arguing that those public tweets are protected."

The ruling is bad news for Malcolm Harris, who was one of 700 protesters arrested during an October 2011 gathering of the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York City. Harris sought to oppose a subpoena demanding access to all of his Twitter posts from September 15, 2011 through the end of the year. Although Harris has deleted the posts and closed his account, Twitter will now have to hand over those records to prosecutors from its archives.

"If you post a tweet, just like if you scream it out the window, there is no reasonable expectation of privacy," Judge Sciarrino writes. The phrase "reasonable expectation of privacy" is significant, it signifies one legal test that is used to determine whether an activity is covered under the privacy protections of the Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution. In the case of Twitter, apparently, the answer is no.

"There is no proprietary interest in your tweets, which you have now gifted to the world," Judge Sciarrino continues. "This is not the same as a private email, a private direct message, a private chat, or any of the other readily available ways to have a private conversation via the internet that now exist."

Police would need a warrant to access those private conversations, the judge says. Tweets? Not so much.

This will hardly be the first time Twitter has turned over account information to authorities. On July 2, the company posted its first Twitter Transparency Report, listing the number of times it responded to requests for information from government agencies worldwide since January 1, 2012. The results were rather depressing.

But Twitter has not always handed over its users' information willingly. In fact, it filed a motion with the court to quash the subpoena that would force it to turn over Harris's posting history, on the grounds that its own terms of service specify that users retain rights to their own content, and that to disclose that content without permission would violate the Fourth Amendment.

If Judge Sciarrino's ruling stands, Twitter's lawyers wrote, "Twitter will be put in the untenable position of either providing user communications and account information in response to all subpoenas or attempting to vindicate its users' rights by moving to quash these subpoenas itself – even though Twitter will often know little or nothing about the underlying facts necessary to support their users' argument that the subpoenas may be improper."

Unfortunately, however, Twitter's motion failed. It seems likely now that for all the requests for disclosure the micro-blogging service received from the US government so far, the number is only going to increase, and rapidly. What Samuel Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, and Thomas Jefferson might think of that is left to the imagination. ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Did a date calculation bug just cost hard-up Co-op Bank £110m?
And just when Brit banking org needs £400m to stay afloat
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
MtGox chief Karpelès refuses to come to US for g-men's grilling
Bitcoin baron says he needs another lawyer for FinCEN chat
Don't let no-hire pact suit witnesses call Steve Jobs a bullyboy, plead Apple and Google
'Irrelevant' character evidence should be excluded – lawyers
EFF: Feds plan to put 52 MILLION FACES into recognition database
System would identify faces as part of biometrics collection
Lavabit loses contempt of court appeal over protecting Snowden, customers
Judges rule complaints about government power are too little, too late
Whoever you vote for, Google gets in
Report uncovers giant octopus squid of lobbying influence
Ex-Tony Blair adviser is new top boss at UK spy-hive GCHQ
Robert Hannigan to replace Sir Iain Lobban in the autumn
Alphadex fires back at British Gas with overcharging allegation
Brit colo outfit says it paid for 347KVA, has been charged for 1940KVA
Jack the RIPA: Blighty cops ignore law, retain innocents' comms data
Prime minister: Nothing to see here, go about your business
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a defence for mobile apps
In this whitepaper learn the various considerations for defending mobile applications; from the mobile application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies needed to properly assess mobile applications risk.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.