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Twitter Rejects Prosecutors' Subpoena For a User's Data Without Warrant 168

Sparrowvsrevolution writes "In defense of user privacy, Twitter filed a motion (PDF) yesterday in a New York state court asking a judge to block a subpoena that would force the company to turn over the data of one of its users, Malcolm Harris. Harris was arrested in an Occupy Wall Street protest on the Brooklyn Bridge in October for 'disorderly conduct.' The company's lawyers claim that the subpoena violates the fourth amendment and Twitter's terms of service, which says that users' tweets belong to them and thus can't be handed over to law enforcement without their consent."
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Twitter Rejects Prosecutors' Subpoena For a User's Data Without Warrant

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  • Re:Sounds nice (Score:4, Interesting)

    by snowgirl ( 978879 ) on Tuesday May 08, 2012 @07:56PM (#39935945) Journal

    answer the relevancy between someones private communications and a charge of disorderly conduct.

    Tweets are rarely private communication, but rather a form of public address.

    Kudos to Twitter and recognizing due process, but it is the least of our concerns here.

    Except that a subpoena _IS_ due process...

  • Re:Sounds nice (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Samantha Wright ( 1324923 ) on Tuesday May 08, 2012 @08:10PM (#39936099) Homepage Journal
    The secret is in the reading of TFA. Twitter's angry that the subpoena claims that Harris has no right to challenge it. The only circumstance allowed by the Stored Communications Act under which the subpoena is filed in which this right can be withheld is if Harris has "no proprietary interest in the content," which is patent bullocks and makes no sense. Officially the subpoena is being made by the prosecution in anticipation of a particular defence; by contrast I do believe a warrant requires suspicion of guilt before it can be issued. It's also very, very unnecessarily broad, and hence blatantly meant to fish for incriminating materials.
  • Re:Sounds nice (Score:5, Interesting)

    by __aaqvdr516 ( 975138 ) on Tuesday May 08, 2012 @08:15PM (#39936149)

    TFA gives some pretty compelling reasons.

    1. that the data belongs to Harris under Twitterâ(TM)s terms of service, and handing it over would violate both those terms of service and the SCA.

    2. it argues that handing over Harrisâ(TM)s data would violate the Fourth Amendmentâ(TM)s protections against searches without a warrant, which it argues applies even when the government is seeking information about allegedly public activities like a userâ(TM)s tweets.

    3. it points out that Twitter is in California, and argues that the New York prosecutors need to make their case to a California court to obtain Twitterâ(TM)s data.

    All seem like valid arguments to quash a subpoena to me.

  • Re:Sounds nice (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cusco ( 717999 ) <> on Tuesday May 08, 2012 @08:15PM (#39936159)
    What, are all OWS detainees winning the grand prize of an FBI file? Are they now considered domestic terrorists?

    Pretty much every protester is considered a possible terrorist by the gov't today, and it's likely that most of the OWS protesters went in with the assumption that they were going to get a file opened on them. All the ones that I've met did anyway (most of them probably already had one though, so they might not be representative).
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 08, 2012 @08:24PM (#39936235)

    Is that many states have laws which allow their own law enforcement to subpoena records without a warrant. You can't tap a conversation but you can get phone records, identifying information, and general subscriber information without warrant. Any prosecutor or investigator is allowed this privilege in most states. Anyone who runs an ISP already knows this. Most people are under the impression that a judge has to sign a search warrant. That is assuredly not the case for most of the information that any service provider has stored. The fact this is happening between states gives Twitter the ability to say "sorry, try California courts instead" and also brings federal laws into action that might not apply if Twitter and the requesting party were both in California.

  • Re:Sounds nice (Score:4, Interesting)

    by oxdas ( 2447598 ) on Tuesday May 08, 2012 @11:57PM (#39937691)

    With a warrant, the bank just drills the lock, so the bank can have access as well. Or, if you like, how about securing an item in their vault. The bank now has unfettered access, but a warrant is still necessary for the government to seize the goods.

    I would disagree that licensing to redistribute dismantles any expectation of privacy. The government must still act within the established law. In this case the Stored Communications Act. This act allows the government to seize things such as email contents, etc and was the law used by the government in this case to issue the subpoena.

    This SCA offers a lower than warrant standard called "D" subpoenas for information about an account, but not the contents of the "stored" communication which still require a warrant. This is where it gets tricky. The government in most of the country doesn't count communications that have already been transmitted or viewed by the recipient as any longer being "stored" for the purposes of the act. However, in Theofel v. Farey-Jones, the Ninth Circuit expanded the meaning of "stored" to include such things as read emails, etc. In this case they ruled that personal emails (presumably regardless of number of recipients) were protected and required more than just a "D" subpoena. Now, you can argue that a tweet is fundamentally different from a email to a million people and I would consider this a reasonable enough question for a court to address. This is why Twitter wants this whole thing moved to California, where the courts would have to follow the precedent of the Ninth Circuit. It is also why the government brought the suit in another district.

  • Re:Sounds nice (Score:4, Interesting)

    by serbanp ( 139486 ) on Wednesday May 09, 2012 @02:04AM (#39938233)

    The thing is that few if any think about this distorted perception and accept half-baked memes as "truth".

    In American history, George Washington is a stark example. We have a state, the federal capital and untold number of cities named after the guy. Mediocre education, sub-par military ability (he lost many more battles than he won), he prevailed at Yorktown against his will (it was de Rochambeau who forced him to attack), and so on. Basically his great qualities are the "survivor skill" and that he refused to be coronated as King.

    Yet he's looked at as the second Messiah's incarnation, kids in school shed tears when they hear his name and everyone reveres him. Really?

  • Re:Sounds nice (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Aryden ( 1872756 ) on Wednesday May 09, 2012 @03:26AM (#39938573)
    You should read more closely. The 11,667 assessments were done between December of 2008 and March of 2009. 3 months. During this time, we did not have major events taking place such as OWS.

"Yeah, but you're taking the universe out of context."