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Revelations about the NSA's secret PRISM program has made transparent many unsettling aspect of the U.S. surveillance apparatus. Among them is the fact that the NSA has seemingly unfettered server access to some of the country's largest internet companies.

Twitter, however, has stood out as not being among them.

A central reason for Twitter's refusal to join PRISM, and for its bulldog approach to protecting users' privacy – often brushing off intimidation attempts by the government – is the fact that its top lawyer, Alex Macgillivray, refuses to back down under pressure.

This is detailed in an interesting piece published by The Verge, which I highly recommend. In it, Adrianne Jeffries begins:

Twitter’s refusal to join PRISM highlighted the fact that the company has a history of being uncooperative, and often antagonistic, when the government asks for user data.

Current and previous employees of Twitter point to the company’s top lawyer, Alex Macgillivray, a smart, serious, and strong-willed advocate who believes Twitter is a platform for free expression and must remain as neutral as a pen. Macgillivray, who everyone simply calls "Amac" (pronounced "eh-mack") after his Twitter handle, "doesn’t give a shit" when the government comes knocking with demands and intimidation.

Jeffries notes that, while Twitter complies with 69 percent of government request, that number is wildly lower than other internet companies. For example, Google, which prides itself on protecting users' privacy and rights, complies with 88 percent of government requests for private data.

While there may be a number of reasons why Twitter is able to reject requests at a higher rate, including the fact that it collects far less personal information than other companies, it's also clear that the internet maven is aggressive when it comes to standing up to government demands for information and access.

In the past, Twitter has fought the government on handing over data associated with WikiLeaks (won) and pushed back against NYPD demands to hand over Occupy Wall Street protesters' account information (lost).

The reason? Macgillivray’s "pro-user, damn-the-man attitude."

Every internet company should have a general counsel so predisposed. And every internet user should applaud Twitter for employing a lawyer with the chutzpah to place users' rights over government demands.



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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (29+ / 0-)

    "If the Jew who struggles for justice for Palestine is considered anti-Semitic, & if Palestinians seeking self-determination are so accused...then no oppositional move can take place w/o risking the accusation." - Judith Butler

    by David Harris Gershon on Thu Jun 13, 2013 at 11:07:26 AM PDT

  •  While this is good (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mr Robert

    69% is a pretty big number. I can't seem to find info on the raw number that this represents. I'd imagine it's at least in the five figure range, bare minimum. Although they could legal look at what people are saying on twitter and record all of it. Twitter isn't exactly known for being about saying things quietly and in secret.

    If debt were a moral issue then, lacking morals, corporations could never be in debt.

    by AoT on Thu Jun 13, 2013 at 11:18:06 AM PDT

    •  Well, maybe I could learn to read (0+ / 0-)

      Around 2k requests compared to google's 20k.

      If debt were a moral issue then, lacking morals, corporations could never be in debt.

      by AoT on Thu Jun 13, 2013 at 11:19:02 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I also don't know what this represents in terms of (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      AoT

      the raw numbers, but I do know that it is extremely low compared with many other internet companies, and reveals Twitter's penchant for pushing back and refusing those that stand outside the bound of legal or reasonable requests (often times).

      "If the Jew who struggles for justice for Palestine is considered anti-Semitic, & if Palestinians seeking self-determination are so accused...then no oppositional move can take place w/o risking the accusation." - Judith Butler

      by David Harris Gershon on Thu Jun 13, 2013 at 11:27:45 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Twitter asks for less user information to begin (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    The Troubadour, AoT, stevemb

    with. Google, et al, say they need that information in order to make money -- which makes me wonder: other than Mitt Romney and the GOP's unfortunate "Promoted" Trending Topics, how does Twitter keep the doors open?

    Google was a lot less evil when it wasn't worried about making money. But once they realized that they really needed to make some sort of profit, they got a little evil. Then once they went public, the evil started to seep out all over the place.

    Twitter is still relatively new, compared to the other big names in tech.

    This Alex dude sounds great. But I'm just curious how they're paying their bills.

     

    © grover


    So if you get hit by a bus tonight, would you be satisfied with how you spent today, your last day on earth? Live like tomorrow is never guaranteed, because it's not. -- Me.

    by grover on Thu Jun 13, 2013 at 11:25:58 AM PDT

    •  This is true -- it requests, and stores, much less (0+ / 0-)

      information, which may give it the ability to refuse more requests. Also a function of it being a new company.

      However, much of this is philosophical as well.

      "If the Jew who struggles for justice for Palestine is considered anti-Semitic, & if Palestinians seeking self-determination are so accused...then no oppositional move can take place w/o risking the accusation." - Judith Butler

      by David Harris Gershon on Thu Jun 13, 2013 at 11:28:44 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Good to know. Does the 69% include subpoenas (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sfbob

    or warrants? I didn't see that specified in the article either.

    I was gonna listen to that, but then, um, I just carried on living my life. - Aldous Snow

    by GoGoGoEverton on Thu Jun 13, 2013 at 12:06:53 PM PDT

  •  Twitter's about to become my neighbor (0+ / 0-)

    with their new office on Market Street in SF currently under development. I've kept on resisting getting a Twitter account but this sort of thing might just change my mind.

  •  "as neutral as a pen" -- I like it! nt (0+ / 0-)

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