Twitter’s motion to quash a subpoena for Malcolm Harris’s twitter data has been denied by a New York criminal judge.
The microblogging site was served a subpoena from the District Attorney’s Office in Manhattan on Jan 26, 2012, asking for the account information and tweets of activist Malcolm Harris, one of several hundred Occupy Wall Street protesters arrested last year during a protest across the Brooklyn Bridge.
Prosecutors argue that Harris was aware he was going against police orders to not go on the Brooklyn Bridge.
Twitter has argued against the subpoena saying that the tweets belong to Harris, and providing information would be violating his fourth amendment privacy rights under the American Constitution, without receiving a search warrant.
Judge Matthew A. Sciarrino Jr. ruled that Harris’s fourth amendment rights were not violated because there was "no physical intrusion of the defendant’s tweets."
The fourth amendment protects agains unlawful search and seizure.
"There is no reasonable expectation of privacy for tweets that the user has made public," said Sciarrino.
"It is the act of tweeting or disseminating communications to the public that controls. Even when a user deletes his or her tweets there are search engines available such as "Untweetable", "Tweleted" and "Politwoops" that hold users accountable for everything they had publicly tweeted and later deleted," he said.
"Therefore, the defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights were not violated because there was no physical intrusion of the defendant’s tweets and the defendant has no reasonable expectation of privacy in the information he intentionally broadcast to the world."
Harris was told that he had no "propriety interest" to his own messages.
"If you post a tweet just, just like if you scream it out the window, there is no reasonable expectation of privacy," said Judge Sciarrino.
"There is no proprietary interest in your tweets, which you have now gifted to the world."
Twitter argued that in their terms and conditions it states users "retain their right to any content they submit, post, or display on or through."
The court will now review the material provided by Twitter and send relevant tweets to the DA’s office.
"Twitter’s Terms of Service have long made it absolutely clear that its users own their content," the company said.
"We continue to have a steadfast commitment to our users and their rights."
Aden Fine, staff attorney with the ACLU Speech, Privacy and Technology Project, found the court’s ruling disappointing.
"What is surprising is that the court continued to fail to grapple with one of the key issues underlying this case: do individuals give up their ability to go to court to try to protect their free speech and privacy rights when they use the Internet? As we explained in our brief, the answer has to be no," said Fine.
"The United States Supreme Court and courts around the country have repeatedly made clear that individuals whose constitutional rights are implicated by government requests for information to third parties have standing to challenge those third-party requests, and there’s no reason for the result to be different when Internet activities are at issue, regardless of whether individuals ‘own’ their Internet speech or whether the Internet companies ‘own’ it."
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