Twitter defends privacy of Occupy protester’s tweets

California-based Twitter is standing up for the privacy rights of one of its users, a man who was arrested for disorderly conduct in a protest with Occupy Wall Street. Twitter claims that New York police have no warrant for the suspect’s tweets, are violating Twitter’s Terms of Service and are operating out of their jurisdiction.

The well-known microblogging company has taken law enforcement agencies to task in the past over intellectual property rules. In the recent court action, Twitter championed the protester’s case, even after the user lost a motion to protect his own tweeted communications. Officials in New York believe the Stored Communications Act will work in its favor to gain the data without a warrant.

The motion by Twitter says prosecutors have no right to data the company cannot share. Under Twitter’s service terms, tweets belong to users. A harvest of the protester’s data would violate company and SCA rules.

Twitter also argued that giving prosecutors private user data would constitute an unreasonable search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment.

The company also chided New York officials for waging a war on the wrong battlegrounds. Twitter maintains the legal fight belongs in California, where Twitter is based.

A member of the American Civil Liberties Union feels Twitter’s fight against law enforcers highlights just how “aggressive” governments have become about accessing individuals’ Internet information.

Users often cannot defend themselves against the agencies’ actions since they rarely know their accounts are targets. Even when a user realizes a government agency is trying to tap into their virtual world, he or she often has no idea how to take a stand.

The protester at the center of the controversy says he has no clue how his tweets would benefit prosecutors. But it shows the lengths that local, state and the federal government will go, and that users need to be prepared to defend themselves in the Internet age.

Source: Forbes, “Twitter Fights Prosecutors Seeking Occupy Protester’s Data Without Warrant,” Andy Greenberg, May 8, 2012