Judge Orders the Release of Twitter Data

Information Management, March-April 2012 | Go to article overview

Judge Orders the Release of Twitter Data


A federal judge has ordered Twitter to turn over information about three account holders involved in the U.S. Department of Justice's (DOJ) WikiLeaks investigation.

The New York Times reported that in 2011 the DOJ started investigating Jacob Appelbaum, an American computer security expert; Rop Gonggrijp, a Dutch citizen; and Birgitta Jonsdottir, a member of Iceland's Parliament. Jonsdottir and Gonggrijp helped WikiLeaks prepare the release of a classified U.S. Army video published online last year.

According to The Times, the government sought their information from Twitter without a search warrant under 18 USC 2703(d), a 1994 amendment to the Stored Communications Act that allows law enforcement access to noncontent Internet records without demonstrating the "probable cause" needed for a traditional search warrant. Wired.com reported the government also wanted the individuals' bank account details, user names, screen names or other identities, and mailing and other addresses.

Twitter then informed the three individuals of the government's demand for their information. Prosecutors wanted records showing when they sent direct messages to one another and from what Internet protocol (IP) addresses.

The judge's ruling does not expose the content of the messages or information on other Twitter users who follow the accounts, according to Wired.com.

The Times reported Appelbaum, Gonggrijp, and Jonsdottir argued in federal court that the order suppressed their right to free speech. Additionally, they maintained that their IP addresses (which identify the location of a computer used to log onto the Internet) should be considered private and that the demand for information was too broad and unrelated to WikiLeaks. …

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