Twitter Ordered to Hand Over WikiLeaks Supporters' Account Information

    January 13, 2012

    Twitter has to provide the U.S. Department of Justice with all account information for three users who allegedly support WikiLeaks, a federal judge ordered last Wednesday according to Mashable.

    U.S. District Judge Liam O’Grady denied a motion to suspend previous orders that would allow the DOJ access to the Twitter account information of three people who are suspected of having ties to WikiLeaks.

    The account information for Jacob Appelbaum, a computer security researcher, Birgitta Jonsdottir, a member of Iceland’s Parliament and Dutch activist Rop Gonggrijp will be used in the investigation into WikiLeaks and its leader, Julian Assange.

    The information the Department of Justice requested is extensive, reportedly including all mailing addresses and billing information known for the user, all connection records and session times, all IP addresses used to access Twitter, all known email accounts, as well as the ‘means and source of payment,’ including banking records and credit cards.” The DOJ wants all the above information beginning with Nov. 1, 2009 to the present date, according to the report.

    In December 2010, a magistrate judge granted the Department of Justice permission to seek the three account holders’ Twitter information under a secret order. Twitter’s “Guidelines for Law Enforcement” says it will notify users of subpoenas for information if law enforcement does not submit a statute or court order to keep the information request secret. The request for Twitter account information was kept secret until early 2011, when the Department of Justice allowed its request to go public.

    This is the second recent decision enforcing a subpoena seeking to access Twitter account holder information. In early January, a Suffolk County court overruled objections to a Massachusetts prosecutor’s subpoena directed at the Twitter records of an Occupy Boston activist, as well as records linked to two Twitter hashtags.  While certain activits believe these subpoenas violate internet users privacy rights and freedom of speech, it is becoming apparent that more courts are allowing access to personal information collected by Twitter.


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