Twitter has been ordered by a US District Judge to hand over Twitter account information for three users alleged to support WikiLeaks. What does this mean for privacy rights within technology?
The information requested was for the Twitter accounts of Birgitta Jonsdottir, a member in Iceland’s Parliament, Jacob Appelbaum, computer security researcher and hacker, and Ron Gonggrijp, a Dutch activist.
United States District Judge, Liam O’Grandy ruled: "No reasonable expectation of privacy in IP addressing information. If petitioners do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in IP addressing information, there would be no reason to require a warrant based on probable cause or to complain that the Twitter order was constitutionally overbroad."
Organisations like the Electronic Frontier Foundation are concerned with the US Government’s push to accessing personal social media accounts fearing this will lead to the Government censoring online expression:
"If the US were to pressure Twitter to censor tweets by organizations it opposes, even those on the terrorist lists, it would join the ranks of countries like India, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Syria, Uzbekistan, all of which have censored online speech in the name of ‘national security’," said the organisation in a blog post.
US Government efforts to censor, access, or delete online accounts have proven to be overzealous.
The case of the HSM Twitter account was flagged by Washington as dangerous with the potential of successfully recruiting a large following. It turned out that 99% of the followers were journalists and law enforcement. It’s safe to say that was definitely a case of foot in mouth syndrome. The after effect resulted in the account gaining more than 3,000 followers and HSM now has over 8,000 followers on Twitter.
The protection of civil liberties needs to be clarified in light of the digital age and civil rights in relation to technology needs to taken into consideration.
"Privacy laws are failing in keeping up with emerging technologies," said the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
The growth of social media and the voice it provides has caught the attention of many governments. Thus, the rights of private citizens needed to be extended and established in the technological sphere.