US court allows access to world-wide Twitter accounts data

By EDRi · November 16, 2011

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Deutsch: [US-Gericht verlangt weltweiten Zugriff auf Twitter Benutzerdaten |]

A US judge decided on 10 November 2011 that Twitter had to release to the US
authorities data on the Twitter accounts of people involved in WikiLeaks
founder Julian Assange case investigated by the US Justice Department.
The Twitter accounts in question belong to Icelandic MP and former WikiLeaks
volunteer Birgitta Jónsdóttir, Seattle-based WikiLeaks volunteer Jacob
Appelbaum and Dutch XS4ALL Internet provider co-founder Rop Gonggrijp.
The judge’s ruling is a response to the appeal made by the three twitter
account holders, thus backing up the previous decision in March of another

Even more worrying is the fact that the investigated people have found out
about the US first court’s decision only because Twitter notified the
subscribers that prosecutors had obtained a court order for their account
information. Furthermore, the judge blocked the users’ attempt to discover
whether other Internet companies had been ordered to release their data to
the US government.

“With this decision, the court is telling all users of online tools hosted
in the U.S. that the U.S. government will have secret access to their data,”
said Jonsdottir who expressed her intention to take the case to the Council
of Europe.

The court order of the appeal was criticised by IPU (Inter-Parliamentary
Union, the international organization of Parliaments with MPs from 157
countries), which adopted a resolution condemning the move which, in their
opinion, threatens free speech and may be in violation of Article 19 of the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights which gives everyone the right to
freedom of opinion and expression.

In seeking the respective information, US authorities used the Stored
Communications Act to demand that Twitter provide the internet protocol
addresses of users as well as bank account details, user names, screen names
or other identities, mailing and other addresses.

In the judge’ opinion, “the information sought was clearly material to
establishing key facts related to an ongoing investigation and would have
assisted a grand jury in conducting an inquiry into the particular matters
under investigation.”

Also extremely worrying is that he also considered that the Twitter users
had implicitly given their agreement to give over their IP addresses the
moment they signed up for an account and relinquished an expectation of

“Petitioners knew or should have known that their IP information was subject
to examination by Twitter, so they had a lessened expectation of privacy in
that information, particularly in light of their apparent consent to the
Twitter terms of service and privacy policy,” wrote the judge in his

Basically, what this decision says is that US authorities can require
account information on any users of US-based online social networks,
irrespective of their location and citizenship. This brings forth very
serious concerns related to online privacy.

EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn also expressed her concern that in a world
where Internet users place online more and more of their conversations,
experiences, pictures, locations and many other types of personal
information, the court’s conclusion is 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.”

US court verdict ‘huge blow’ to privacy, says fomer WikiLeaks aide

Second judge gives DOJ access to WikiLeaks-related Twitter accounts

Privacy Loses in Twitter/Wikileaks Records Battle (10.11.2011)