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Throughout our history, from our founding to our current era, the people of this nation have valued Government transparency and personal privacy. Our government seems to be fighting to take us in the completely opposite direction.

A court decision handed down today in US District Court of Virginia - Alexandria Division affects the privacy rights of not only US citizens, but anyone from any nation utilizing internet sites based in the US.

Follow me over the fold for the details

Privacy Loses in Twitter/Wikileaks Records Battle

A district court judge in Virginia ruled against online privacy today, allowing U.S federal investigators to collect private records of three Twitter users as part of its investigation related to Wikileaks. The judge also blocked the users' attempt to discover whether other Internet companies have been ordered to turn their data over to the government.

The information they were seeking, per the decision (pg 7 & 8), was as follows

1) subscriber names, user names, screen names or other identities;
2) mailing addresses, residential addresses, business addresses, email addresses, and other contact information;
3) connection records, or records of session times and durations;
4) length of service (including start date), and types of service utilized;
5) telephone or instrument number or other subscriber number or identity, including any temporary assigned network address, and
6) means and source of payment for such service (including any credit card or bank account number) and billing records.

B) All records and other information relating to the account(s) and the time period in Part A, including:
1. records of user activity for any connection made to or from the Account, including the date, time, length, and method of connections, data transfer volume, user name, and source and destination Internet Protocol address(es);
2. non-content information associated with the contents of any communication or file stored by or for the account(s), such as the source and destination email addresses and IP addresses.

The government wants these records from any service provider without first obtaining a warrant.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Theresa Buchanan's order isn't a traditional subpoena. Rather, it's what's known as a 2703(d) order, which allows police to obtain certain records from a Web site or Internet provider if they are "relevant and material to an ongoing criminal investigation."

That's not as privacy-protective as a search warrant, which is one reason EFF objected. The ruling, Bankston says, means that "essentially any data about you collected by an Internet service is fair game for warrantless searches by the government." (EFF, Google, Facebook, eBay, and many other groups are seeking to change federal privacy law to require warrants for content-related information, such as the text of e-mail or direct messages.)

Twitter, to its credit fought release of this information and requested that the gag order it was under to not notify the users be lifted. This allowed the three users to participate in fighting this disclosure with the help of the EFF and the ACLU. It bears to note that only one of the users is a US citizen.

The targeted Twitter account holders – who included Seattle programmer Jacob Appelbaum, Icelandic Parliament member Birgitta Jonsdottir, and Dutch businessman Rop Gonggrijp – renewed their criticism of the demand shortly after O'Grady's decision was released.

“With this decision, the court is telling all users of online tools hosted in the US that the US government will have secret access to their data,” Jonsdottir said in a statement. “People around the world will take note. I am very disappointed in today's ruling because it is a huge backward step for the United States' legacy of freedom of expression and the right to privacy.”

EFF is urging other companies to follow Twitter's lead, stand with their customers, and promise to inform users when their data is sought by the government, as part of the Who Has Your Back? campaign.

"When you use the Internet, you entrust your online conversations, thoughts, experiences, locations, photos, and more to dozens of companies who host or transfer your data," said EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn. "In light of that technological reality, we are gravely worried by the court's conclusion that records about you that are collected by Internet services like Twitter, Facebook, Skype and Google are fair game for warrantless searches by the government."

I don't think anyone assumes any right to privacy for things posted on social networking sites. It seems seriously out of control though, that our government can secure information about every IP address we use to access the accounts, all our banking and credit card information associated with those accounts and the IP addresses of everyone we have contact with, all without a warrant.

Our DOJ should not have this authority. Sadly, this judge thinks otherwise. I see this ruling is having a chilling impact on free speech.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (7+ / 0-)

    48forEastAfrica - Donate to Oxfam "Compassion is the radicalism of our time." ~ Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama -7.88, -6.21

    by Siri on Thu Nov 10, 2011 at 09:01:51 PM PST

  •  For reference purposes: The Fourth Amendment (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Siri, JG in MD, Oh Mary Oh
    The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

    The Ninth Amendment applies here too:

    The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

    especially since this is the amendment which figured in the decision in Griswold v Connecticut which firmly established the right to privacy.

    Congratulations to Twitter.  Now, if only the ACLU could use this to file suit against one of those person-corporations to get proprietary information. (tipped and recced too -- this is important)

    All it takes is security in your own civil rights to make you complacent.

    by Dave in Northridge on Thu Nov 10, 2011 at 09:49:10 PM PST

    •  This ruling shocked me (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      kurt, Oh Mary Oh

      I think a lot of people really don't realize how seriously eroded their constitutional rights are becoming.

      To my knowledge, there is no word about an appeal yet but I hope it will be. The most insidious part of this, is that the service providers can be blocked from notifying the users. How can you bring a case to block this on constitutional grounds if you don't even know it's happening.

      I hope more services will join the movement to resist this but I'm sure it's tough to stand up to the DOJ.

      48forEastAfrica - Donate to Oxfam "Compassion is the radicalism of our time." ~ Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama -7.88, -6.21

      by Siri on Thu Nov 10, 2011 at 09:58:40 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Wikileaks is proving very effective for the (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Siri, Oh Mary Oh

    security state.

    You have exactly 10 seconds to change that look of disgusting pity into one of enormous respect!

    by Cartoon Peril on Fri Nov 11, 2011 at 05:08:05 AM PST

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