Twitter Helps Feds With Transparency

With a wink and a nod to the Independence Day holiday, Twitter started posting the number of requests for user information from the U.S. government and other nations. America ranks No. 1, demanding access to 948 user accounts -- a point not lost on the Twitterverse, which decried a Monday court win by government prosecutors in a case over retrieving certain Occupy Wall Street tweets.
Twitter had tried to quash a New York County District Attorney’s Office subpoena for all tweets from protester Malcolm Harris posted between Sept. 15, 2011, and Dec. 31, 2011, as evidence in a criminal case. Harris stands accused of disorderly conduct for marching on the roadway of the Brooklyn Bridge in October. A New York City judge on July 2 ruled Twitter must hand over much of the data.
A follower of tweets by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a civil liberties group that praised Twitter’s surveillance honor roll, linked to news of the Harris verdict and messaged the organization: “@EFF but @Twitter is folding here.”
Not yet, says the company. “We are disappointed in the judge's decision and are considering our options,” a Twitter spokeswoman told the Associated Press/NBC New York. “Twitter's Terms of Service have long made it absolutely clear that its users own their content. We continue to have a steadfast commitment to our users and their rights."
Back to the Big Brother list. The United States filed 679 user information requests. Japan earned the runner up spot with 98 requests and 147 users specified.  Nearly every other country asking for user data wanted to see fewer than 10 accounts.
Jeremy Kessel, Twitter legal policy manager, explained the timing of the release as such: “Beyond the fireworks and barbecue, July 4th serves as an important reminder of the need to hold governments accountable, especially on behalf of those who may not have a chance to do so themselves. With that in mind, today we’re unveiling our first Twitter Transparency Report.”
The company gave a hat tip to Google for being the first Web services provider to call out countries in a similar transparency report.
Twitter’s revelations seemingly elated the online forum. Christopher Soghoian, a Washington area security and privacy researcher, urged every other provider to step up. “Hell Yes. Twitter publishes report on gov requests. Time for Facebook, Microsoft, wireless carriers to follow suit,” he tweeted at 4:38 p.m.
Occupy Bay Street denizens in Canada lauded America’s placement on the wall of shame: “#1? USA! USA! USA!” -- the movement’s Twitter feed, exclaimed at 5:40 p.m.  The Canadian government requested data from 12 user accounts.