World & Nation

Government requests for Twitter user data continue to climb

U.S. law enforcement requests for Twitter users’ personal information continued to rise in the first half of 2013, the San Francisco-based company reported this week.

Twitter received 902 requests for users’ information from U.S. government entities in the first half of 2013, a 33% rise from the same period a year earlier, according to the company’s biannual transparency report.

As with many online services, the microblogging site’s contents often prove useful evidence for criminal cases, and the requests included warrants, subpoenas and other court orders for users’ information. A majority of requests sought only basic information, such as IP logs and email accounts.

But when it comes to the biggest topic of the year -- how often Twitter gets national-security-related requests, such as from the National Security Agency -- Twitter’s latest report doesn’t go into specifics.


“We have joined forces with industry peers and civil liberty groups to insist that the United States government allow for increased transparency into these secret orders,” the blogging service said in a statement coinciding with the release of its latest report, which was published Wednesday.

“We believe it’s important to be able to publish numbers of national security requests – including FISA disclosures – separately from non-secret requests. Unfortunately, we are still not able to include such metrics.”

Twitter, which has often led Silicon Valley on transparency issues, has reportedly resisted the government’s efforts to secretly amass Americans’ user data, which was recently disclosed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

At times, Twitter has defied officials’ wishes to keep requests for user data hidden, keeping a policy of notifying users of such requests. Twenty percent of U.S. user information requests were issued under seal, barring the company from issuing notifications.


In another trend, Twitter did not furnish user information to U.S. agencies in 33% of government requests, an increase from 25% over the same period in 2012.

Globally, various countries’ requests to remove users’ tweets also continued to grow in the first half of 2013, with Russia making 17 of the 60 requests overall. More than 100 users were targeted for removal globally, though Twitter said the company removed only four. Several of the requests were targeted against accounts or tweets alleged to be defamatory or belonging to hate groups banned under various national laws.


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