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Government requests for Twitter data shoot up

BusinessNews
by Chloe Albanesius, 29 Jan 2013News
Government requests for Twitter data shoot up

Google isn't the only web giant releasing stats for Data Privacy Day. Twitter has now released its second transparency report, as well as a standalone site where this data will live from now on.

Stats about federal requests for Twitter user information, removal requests, and copyright notices will be housed at transparency.twitter.com.

Like Google did recently, Twitter is also releasing more specific information about this data, "expanding the scope of the removal requests and copyright notices sections, and adding Twitter site accessibility data from our partners at Herdict," the company said in a blog post.

According to the stats, Twitter has received 1,858 government requests for information about its users since 1 January, 2012. The micro-blogging service has also been served with 48 removal requests and 6,646 copyright requests.

In the second half of 2012, Twitter received 1,009 requests, up from 849 in the first half. Removal requests jumped dramatically - from six to 42, while copyright notices dropped slightly, from 3,378 to 3,268.

Most of the data requests came from US officials; between 1 July and 31 December, 81 per cent of information requests originated in the states, Twitter said. 60 per cent were subpoenas received from US law enforcement, 11 per cent were court orders, and 19 per cent were search warrants. Overall, Twitter received 815 user data requests covering 1,145 accounts in the US in the second half of the year, and Twitter complied with about 69 per cent of those requests.

"We believe the open exchange of information can have a positive global impact," said Jeremy Kessel, Twitter's manager of legal policy. "To that end, it is vital for us (and other Internet services) to be transparent about government requests for user information and government requests to withhold content from the Internet; these growing inquiries can have a serious chilling effect on free expression – and real privacy implications."

Twitter released its first transparency report in July 2012.

Twitter has largely resisted efforts to reveal data about its users. Last year, a Manhattan judge ordered Twitter to hand over three months' worth of tweets and user information on an Occupy Wall Street protester. Twitter had protested the request, but Judge Sciarrino Jr. found that there "can be no reasonable expectation of privacy in a tweet sent around the world."

More recently, a French court ruled that Twitter must hand over data about users who posted racist or anti-Semitic tweets. While such tweets are frowned upon in the network's birthplace of the US, they are protected by the First Amendment. Countries like France and Germany, however, have laws that ban hate speech.

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