Less than 24 hours after news broke that Twitter was suing the government agencies to protect the privacy of the person or persons behind the now popular anti-Trump Twitter account @ALT_uscis, the government backed off.
Twitter dropped its lawsuit against the government after informing a federal court that the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Customs and Border Protection had withdrawn its request for information about an anonymous account that has critiqued President Donald Trump’s immigration policies and enforcement actions.
Last Thursday, Twitter filed a lawsuit to block the order by the law enforcement agencies to reveal the information about the parody account, whose name stands for alternative U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service, including user names, account login, phone numbers, mailing addresses and I.P. addresses. In an earlier federal court filing, Twitter disclosed that last month it had received a summons to reveal the information.
So why does it matter?
Digital privacy has become a thorny issue that has brought government at loggerheads with technology giants. In the past, Apple refused to create a “backdoor” operating system that would allow the FBI to hack the phone of an accused in the 2015’s infamous San Bernardino shooting.
Twitter and other social media giants have constantly been defending its user’s First Amendment Rights. However at the same time, Twitter, in its most recent self-reported transparency report, said it provided user account information in 29% of “valid legal requests” from various government entities during the second half of 2016, down from previous reporting periods.
The company guidelines for law enforcement officials, define valid legal requests as “appropriate legal process such as a subpoena, court order or other valid legal process – or in response to a valid emergency request.”
They also added, “Requests for the contents of communications (e.g., Tweets, Direct Messages, photos) require a valid search warrant from an agency with proper jurisdiction over Twitter.”
Javerbaum Wurgaft attorney Rubin Sinins, who has successfully defended companies and individuals in criminal matters relating to social media, argued that new technologies pose complex problems when it comes to privacy. “We are vigilant in keeping up with the latest legal development and often seek to shape them,” he said.
Sinins served as amicus counsel before the New Jersey Supreme Court in establishing constitutional protection for cell phone users’ locations in a landmark case of State v. Thomas Earls (2013).
It is important now more than ever to protect your privacy.