Judge rules Twitter must hand over user info in WikiLeaks probe

By Eric W. Dolan
Thursday, November 10, 2011 20:06 EDT
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A district court judge in Virginia ruled Thursday that U.S federal investigators can collect the private records of three Twitter users as part of its investigation related to WikiLeaks. The judge also refused to unseal court documents that would indicate whether other Internet companies have been ordered to turn over their data as well.

The U.S. Department of Justice subpoenaed Twitter in December 2010 in connection with an ongoing investigation of WikiLeaks. The subpoena requested all records and other information relating to Twitter accounts associated with WikiLeaks and a few of its current and former supporters.

Three WikiLeaks associates, Icelandic lawmaker Birgitta Jonsdottir, Dutch activist Rop Gongrjip and programmer Jacob Appelbaum, have been fighting the subpoena since January.

But U.S. District Judge Liam O’Grady echoed a March 3 ruling on Thursday, holding that the subpoena did not violated the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, which protects people against “unreasonable” searches. The three gave up “any reasonable expectation of privacy” by agreeing to Twitter’s privacy policy, according to the court.

“Internet users don’t automatically give up their rights to privacy and free speech when they use services like Twitter,” said Aden Fine, staff attorney for the ACLU Speech, Privacy and Technology Project. “The government shouldn’t be able to get this kind of private information without a warrant, and they certainly shouldn’t be able to do so in secret. An open court system is a fundamental part of our democracy, and the very existence of court documents should not be hidden from the public.”

Eric W. Dolan
Eric W. Dolan
Eric W. Dolan has served as an editor for Raw Story since August 2010, and is based out of Sacramento, California. He grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and received a Bachelor of Science from Bradley University. Eric is also the publisher and editor of PsyPost. You can follow him on Twitter @ewdolan.
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