Tweets Should Be Private: Twitter Fights For User Privacy

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It is going to take more than 140 characters to describe this one, but we can try: “Twitter defends #privacy. Fights in court to protect users’ 4th Amendment right to account; deleted tweets are not automatically public.”

Referring to itself as the “voice of liberty around the globe,” earlier this week Twitter challenged an April 2012 ruling from Judge Matthew Sciarrino Jr. who declared that Tweets are public and no different than screaming out on the street.

In the case, an Occupy Wall Street protester, Malcolm Harris, like 100s more, was charged with disrupting traffic while protesting on the Brooklyn Bridge last summer. Much of the evidence for this case came from Harris’ Twitter account; this includes, not just his public Tweets, but also, as reported by Gigaom, “more private information such as the location of his tweets, personal messages and deleted items.”

Twitter stood to protect these items, but the ruling came back stating: “Well today, the street is an online, information superhighway, and the witnesses can be the third party providers like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, or the next hot social media application.”

In this recent appeal, Twitter contends that users have a property right to their tweets and a 4th Amendment privacy right to their accounts. As such, deleted Tweets are not in the public domain, and accounts must be protected in the same manner as a personal e-mail account. You can read Twitter’s full appeal here.

Ben Lee, the legal counsel for Twitter, Tweeted earlier this week: “Twitter users own their Tweets. They have a right to fight invalid government requests, and we continue to stand with them in that fight.”

Additionally, the ACLU has filed a brief supporting Twitter’s appeal. In a statement, Aden Fine, the Senior Staff Attorney for the organization, stated, “We’re hopeful that Twitter’s appeal will overturn the criminal court’s dangerous decision, and reaffirm that we retain our constitutional rights to speech and privacy online, as well as offline.”

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Jillian Ryan

Jillian Ryan is PRIVATE WiFi's Director, Brand Communications and Social Strategy. With a passion for writing, the web, and fast-paced information exchanged via social networks, Jillian is also concerned about the ramifications of putting your life details and personal data into cyberspace. Follow her on Twitter: @Writing_Jillian.