Twitter Discloses U.S. Government Information Request for First-Half of 2012

Normally we would ignore what's going on at Twitter (not because we don't care but because the daily machinations of the service have no bearing within these pages), but a change in policy is of particular interest – mainly in how it might relate to current and future cybersecurity bills – like CISPA, PROTECT IT, and the Cybersecurity Act of 2012. Like Google, Twitter has decided to disclose how often the U.S. government asks for information on a user or issues a DMCA takedown via what they call a new "transparency tool."

For the first time since it launched, Twitter is showing the general public how many times governments around the world have asked for user information or for content to be taken down, along with how many DMCA takedown requests are made.

At the top of that list are requests from the United States government. The United States government made the most requests – 679 out of the 849 total requests made in 2012. Of those requests, Twitter complied with around 75 percent of them (in part or in full), but it did not comply with any of the government's requests to remove content. The transparency tool shows data from January 1, 2012 and June 30, 2012.

Speaking to Ars Technica about this story, the Electronic Frontier Foundation's (EFF) Eva Galperin (international freedom of expression coordinator) said that most companies do not voluntarily give up information because they are not required to by law. She also said that the U.S. government has a "pretty good handle on the fact of who has certain kinds of information and they understand that they can ask for it." She added that other governments will probably join in on the practice in the next couple of years.

On its blog, Twitter said that these requests in the first half of 2012 show a troubling trend:

"We’ve received more government requests in the first half of 2012, as outlined in this initial dataset, than in the entirety of 2011," the company wrote in a blog post.

But the real question that Internet users have to ask themselves is what would Twitter, Google, Facebook, and Yahoo do if they didn't have to worry about users suing them for violating their privacy rights when they freely shared information with the U.S. government? That's why so many are concerned about new cybersecurity laws being fast-tracked through Congress…

Source: Ars Technica


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