Feeling Safe on Twitter? Think Again
To tweet or not to tweet? With nearly 200 million registered Twitter accounts, more than 50 million “active” users, and roughly 3 million tweets posted every day, much of the world would seem to respond in the affirmative. A recent court ruling, however, might begin to lessen Twitter’s appeal.
This past week, a New York judge decided in favor of prosecutors who sought access to the Twitter account of an Occupy Wall Street protestor over a three-month period.
While conceding the protestor’s “public tweets” are open season, Yale Law School professor Adam Cohen worries the ruling may have given the state goverment much more than the technological equivalent of air. Beyond “public tweets,” the Time contributor fears the government may also wind up with access to the protestor’s private tweets, alongside IP addressess and other personal data. With such information, Cohen warns, the government could potentially reconstruct where the protestor was on a minute-by-minute basis.
Or, for that matter, any of us. If the ruling provides the state access to such information without a search warrant, Cohen frets the court might be opening the gates to broad government intrusion into the private lives of Internet users.
The key word, of course, is “if.” Until we know exactly what information the court awarded the prosecutors, it would be imprudent to judge the court’s decision. But the day Twitter functions as a free government radar to my whereabouts is the day I wish Twitter a pleasant goodbye.
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