Government requests for Twitter data rise by huge 40%

Twitter has been inundated with government requests for data in the first six months of 2013, with a rise of 40 per cent in the amount of queries, and the actual number rumoured to be much higher.

The US government dwarfs every other nation with three quarters of the 1,157 requests made between 1 January and 30 June, according to the latest Twitter Transparency report.

“Information requests include worldwide government requests we’ve received for user account information, typically in connection with criminal investigations or cases,” explained Twitter.

A modest amount of requests, 26 to be exact, was made by the UK government as it became the third most prolific data requester worldwide. Of the requests made by the UK, Twitter produced information in 15 per cent of the cases.

Requests made under the US Patriot Act aren’t included in the figures, which has led many observers to speculate the number to be much higher than the 1,157 reported by Twitter’s latest report.

Censorship of Twitter is another contentious issue and the social network revealed that efforts made by countries to censor the site have also risen.

“Over the last six months, we have gone from withholding content in two countries to withholding content (ranging from hate speech to defamation) in seven countries,” said Twitter legal policy manager Jeremy Kessel.

Brazil issued the most removal requests, with courts in the country issuing orders on nine occasions to remove 39 defamatory tweets.

Twitter has been publishing its twice-yearly transparency reports since July 2012 and its last report, in January 2013, revealed there had been 1,009 requests for data in the second half of 2012.

Earlier this year, the Electronic Frontier Foundation [EFF] looked at privacy and transparency among 18 major Internet companies and found that the microblogging service was top of the pile when it came to protecting its users’ data.