Twitter sues the government for the right to disclose surveillance orders

In a meeting with the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) last January, Twitter sought meaningful transparency regarding the increase in government requests for user data, made under to pretense of national security. Unsatisfied with the restrictions that are preventing them from disclosing such information to the public, the microblogging service has decided to take the federal government to court.

The United States government made a deal with Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Facebook, and LinkedIn earlier this year to broaden the scope of authorized disclosures about user information that technology companies turn over to authorities following a wave of protests for National Security Agency (NSA) reform. Twitter, however, has expressed its concern over the limitations that have been placed on these disclosures.

Tech companies are currently only allowed to disclose user data that has been requested by the government through national security letters (NSL) and Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) orders in increments of 1,000. Unlike warrants, NSLs enable the government to demand information from companies or individuals without the approval of a judge. Twitter and other Web companies are also prohibited from reporting what kinds of national security requests they have not received.

“As previously noted, we think it is essential for companies to be able to disclose numbers of national security requests of all kinds, including national security letters and different types of FISA court orders, separately from reporting on all other requests,” Twitter said in a February press release. “For the disclosure of national security requests to be meaningful to our users, it must be within a range that provides sufficient precision to be meaningful.”

“We continue to look for comprehensive reform of government surveillance powers in the US,” wrote Twitter in its press release, “and we support meaningful efforts such as the USA Freedom Act of 2014 as introduced by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, which would allow companies like Twitter to provide more transparency to its users.”

Read more about the story at The Washington Post.

 

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In a meeting with the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) last January, Twitter sought meaningful transparency regarding the increase in government requests for user data, made under to pretense of national security. Unsatisfied with the restrictions that are preventing them from disclosing such information to the public, the...