Monday, February 18, 2013
Twitter Answers U.S. Government's Request for User Data 69% of the Time
As technology advances and social media websites continue to develop into a hub for global communication, governments have started to seek user information from these sites. Whether this is unreasonable government surveillance or effective resource management is debatable. Either way, it is inevitable that the government will request information from social media users and it is foreseeable, provided the correct documentation, that social media sites will disclose the information.
Twitter has created a transparency report that unveils to the public and its users the number of times the government is requesting information in order to maintain transparency between its users and the company. Twitter’s second transparency report provided that in the beginning of 2013 they received 1,009 requests for user account information from the government between July to December 2012 and 1858 requests for all of 2012. These numbers convey a sixteen percent increase from the first half of the year to the second half of the year. With eighty-one percent of the requests coming from the United States, there is reason to establish awareness. Approximately sixty percent of the data requested by the U.S. government was via subpoenas versus warrants. Since January 1, 2012 there have also been forty-eight removal requests that the government deemed illegal and 6,646 copyright violations found by the government.
Although governments are continually requesting user information, it is not always granted. Of the 1,009 requests, accounting for 1,433 user’s accounts, Twitter released user information sixty-nine percent of the time. Japan requested the second most, sixty-two times regarding seventy-five users, however Twitter only complied five percent of the time. The U.S. government requested information in three primary forms; subpoenas - sixty percent of the time, court orders - eleven percent of the time, and warrants - nineteen percent of the time. Twitter disclosed that the majority of the subpoenas requested basic subscriber information, such as e-mail address associated to the account and IP logs. Search warrants are typically requesting more detailed disclosure, including tweets and direct messages.
As social media continues to grow, Twitter finds it imperative that it is transparent to users about the government’s requests to attain user information. As the number of inquires continue to grow, it is vital users are cognitive of the government’s actions and aware of the information they are disclosing to internet services in order to act accordingly and properly protect themselves. Although information is being disclosed by Twitter, the transparency report displays that the social media site is clearly doing its due diligence regarding the process. Additionally, it is important that social media users understand that Twitter, as well as other social media websites, have a responsibility to provide its user’s information when presented with official documentation like subpoenas and court orders. As a citizen of the United States, we are fortunate to live in a democracy where we maintain a freedom of speech and expectation of privacy, however if you are participating in suspicious activity take note that social media websites like Twitter and the government will work together in order to establish justice.
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