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US Twitter Spying May Have Broken EU Privacy Law 342

Stoobalou writes "A group of European MPs will today push EU bosses to say if the US government breached European privacy laws by snooping on Twitter users with links to whistle-blowing site WikiLeaks. The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) will today pose an oral question to the European Commission, seeking clarification from the US on a subpoena demanding the micro-blogging site hand over users' account details."
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US Twitter Spying May Have Broken EU Privacy Law

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  • Re:Privacy? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 13, 2011 @01:51AM (#34858254)

    They subpoenad twitter not for the tweets but for IP logs and private account information pertaining to certain accounts. They basically want to know from which computers and where the users logged in from (ie. the IP), at what times (ie. IP log), and what they did while there. They'll also know the e-mails, passwords, and other information from those accounts.
    THAT, my friend, is definitely not public and I think that's a huge breach of privacy even for these reasons because the US not only subpoenad for the WikiLeaks accounts but many others that were associated with the scandal.

  • Wrong (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 13, 2011 @02:56AM (#34858546)
    "In Europe, police would be able to get this information without any judicial oversight, without anybody being informed, and without anybody being able to object."

    Wrong. Logs from ISP and company are also subject to the equivalent of subponea. Where the heck did you get this idea that the police could get whatever they want without judicial oversight ?
  • Re:Where? (Score:4, Informative)

    by molnarcs ( 675885 ) <> on Thursday January 13, 2011 @04:08AM (#34858804) Homepage Journal
    "They operate in the US"

    Once again, they don't operate in the US only. When a US based company operates (provides services) in another country, they must follow that country's laws. That's the actual point you fail to understand... repeatedly.

  • by angel'o'sphere ( 80593 ) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @04:41AM (#34858930) Journal

    Thats complete bullshit:

    In Europe, police would be able to get this information without any judicial oversight, without anybody being informed, and without anybody being able to object.

    It is more or less the same like in the US. You have to convince a judge to give a search warrant. If he does not do so you can not search or "request to hand over" informations. And frankly ... judges here give warrants like this very very very rarely.

    Every case where a judge gives such a warrant and then nothing is found is a very server obstacle in his future carrier.


  • by denoir ( 960304 ) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @05:07AM (#34859034)
    On the face of it this may be silly as EU law obviously doesn't apply to US companies. That however would be misreading the whole thing. The EU is controlled by two entities the European Parliament and the Commission. The latter writes the laws and proposals and the former votes for or against them.

    Members of European Parliament (MEPs) are democratically elected. Their primary problem is that nobody in Europe cares what they do or what they say. The EU decisions are in practice always complex compromises. The UK may vote for privacy laws the Netherlands wants in exchange for increased fishing quotas and the Netherlands wants it because the Dutch government can use it as a political tool for some other purpose. In short political ideology does not exist in the EU. This is a big problem for MEPs as they can't get reelected unless they get enough publicity and look as if they are doing something the voters care about. The system works against them and so on occasion they make loud noises about any issue they think will be of interest to the voters. Given the complex nature of compromises in the EU they seldom have the opportunity to do this. In this case the opportunity they saw was in the word "twitter". They know that voters recognize it and have scrambled to make themselves look like they are doing something decisive in the public interest. It's not real, it's just collecting brownie points from the public and getting their name in the papers. So you can forget about it. It has nothing to do with EU privacy laws or the US or twitter - it's strictly a PR thing.

    The other branch of the EU executive and legislative power is the Commission. It has two functions. One is to act in the interest of the entity that controls it - the EU's civil service and the other is to provide a mechanism for national level politicians to get unpopular decisions through. The EU is run and controlled by the EU bureaucracy - it's civil servants. The Commissioners represent primarily the interest of their departments. The interest of the civil service is entirely self serving. They are for sending SWIFT data to the US as it will mean many fact finding trips to the US and other countries for the people in the departments. They are strongly for the introduction of checks and balances for sending the data as it creates more work for the civil service and ultimately increases their budget. The politicians on the national level have no problem with this as their use of the Commission is to get through unpopular legislation. When something popular is introduced it's always handled at the national level and the local politicians take credit for it. When it's something unpopular they simply say "we hate it too, but it's EU legislation, we can't do anything about it".

    That's how the system works and it's not easy for the MEPs as they are not civil servants, they are politicians and need publicity and votes while they are not really meant to have any significant political power. That's why there was such an outrage at the EP rejecting a gay bashing candidate for the post of the Commissioner for Justice a few years back. Things like that are not supposed to happen and as a rule they don't. So when you hear that the EP is making an inquiry or that MEPs are making noises about something, you can safely ignore it. It doesn't have to make sense as nothing will ever come of it - they are just trying to get themselves noticed in order to get reelected.
  • Re:Where? (Score:5, Informative)

    by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) <> on Thursday January 13, 2011 @09:00AM (#34860194) Homepage Journal

    Microsoft is a US company but it didn't stop the EU regulating them. Google is a US company but they had to comply when the EU asked for Street View WiFi data gathered in the EU. Any business that wants to operate in the EU has to abide by EU laws, and Twitter is a business that advertises here and does deals with EU companies.

The Force is what holds everything together. It has its dark side, and it has its light side. It's sort of like cosmic duct tape.