The US Government recently issued a series of court orders aimed at technology companies that may have information concerning individuals affiliated with Wikileaks, the web organization that publishes classified information, such as the numerous cables from US ambassadors that’s caused such a stir.
Microblogging social network Twitter was among the companies that were ordered to turn over information. Previous procedure for this type of activity would mean that Twitter would issue a communication to those users prior to handing over information to authorities. However, this court order had a specific gag order preventing them from doing this.
Twitter decided to challenge the order instead of blindly opening up their database.
Twitter and other companies, notably Google, have a policy of notifying a user before responding to a subpoena, or a similar request for records. That gives the user a fair chance to go to court and try and quash the subpoena. That’s a great policy. But it has one fatal flaw. If the records request comes with a gag order, the company can’t notify anyone. And it’s quite routine for law enforcement to staple a gag order to a records request.
That’s what makes Twitter’s move so important. It briefly carried the torch for its users during that crucial period when, because of the gag order, its users couldn’t carry it themselves. The company’s action in asking for the gag order to be overturned sets a new precedent that we can only hope that other companies begin to follow.
Regardless of where you stand on Wikileak’s decision to publish hundreds of previously classified US Cables, Twitter stuck up for its users and refused to bend to the whim of authority without just cause. And while Wired staff writer Ryan Singel joked that Twitter’s latest feature was “growing a spine”, I was far more inclined to draw similarities to Tron.
Why? Because he fights for the users.
If Disney was smart, they’d start licensing off this property to large tech companies that want to tout their privacy policies and such.