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Court Rules Government Can Collect Private Records of Twitter Users

Ben Siracusa Hillman,
Speech, Privacy and Technology Project
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March 11, 2011

Late this afternoon, a court ruled that the government can collect the private records of three Twitter users as part of its investigation related to WikiLeaks. The court rejected our efforts to overturn an earlier court order that had required Twitter to turn over the records. We had challenged the order on the grounds that it was overbroad and violated our client’s constitutional rights.

We had also sought to make public court documents concerning the government’s attempts to collect private records from Twitter and other companies. The court agreed to make public all of the documents related to the users’ legal challenge to the order to Twitter, but rejected our request to make public documents the government had filed in order to obtain that order.

We are disappointed with the court’s decision. The government should not be able to secretly gather private information related to individuals’ Internet communications. Unless the government obtains a warrant, individual users should have the right to find out about these orders and to go to court to challenge the government’s justification for obtaining them.

Today’s ruling — which rejected users’ ability to even mount a challenge in many circumstances — fails to recognize that in today’s world, these sorts of secret government requests involve personal and private information. Our privacy in our Internet communications should not be so easily sacrificed.

The fight far from over, though. We plan to appeal today’s decision.

For more on the case, visit our Twitter/Wikileaks hub.

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