Twitter refuses to secretly hand over user data

by scotslawstudent

Twitter has gone to court over demands by the US Department of justice to hand over the data of individuals linked to Wikileaks, without telling the users they were doing it.

Good on twitter.

The ability of authorities to get the data of users they are investigating without their knowledge is supposed to allow investigations to take place without alerting the people under investigation that they are. It’s the 21st century equivalent of the stakeout.

It’s wholly inappropriate just now because anyone on a list of people who is linked to Wikileaks who doesn’t realise they are under investigation shouldn’t be on the list because they clearly don’t work for Wikileaks. The PCPro Podcast recently pointed out that they had followed Wikileaks on Twitter and wondered if they are under investigation now, for that matter am I?

The problem with serving secret orders on internet intermediaries is that it lets you show the warrant to the wrong person. Instead of showing it to the person who is involved and potentially interested in challenging the order you show it to a business which is far more concerned about not annoying the authorities too much and not going bankrupt. What reason does a company have to spend their finite resources defending faceless users, perhaps even overseas, who don’t even know they’re being defended?

The more I think about what Twitter, a popular but still fledgling business, has done the more impressed I am about it. That is a rare Web 2.0 company that cares more about customers than their float.