In a major blow to Internet privacy, a district court judge ruled today that federal investigators were allowed to collect private records of three Twitter users as part of their investigation related to WikiLeaks.
According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco-based Internet-privacy advocacy group, Icelandic parliamentarian Birgitta Jonsdottir had appealed an earlier ruling with fellow Twitter users Jacob Appelbaum and Rop Gonggrijp, all of whom were notified by Twitter that the government was asking for their private information.
"The Twitter order did not violate the Constitution," U.S. District Judge Liam O'Grady concluded.
In addition, he said, there was no evidence that it violated federal
Attorneys representing Jonsdottir argued that users should be reassured that they can trust their companies to keep online conversations, locations, thoughts, photos, and experiences private. They argued that all three of the plaintiffs used Twitter extensively and rarely were their tweets about WikiLeaks.
WikiLeaks released thousands of classified documents on the U.S.
wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as secret diplomatic cables.
The Justice Department argued that the records requested have nothing to do with politics, rather about a criminal case.
"With this decision, the court is telling all users of online tools hosted in the U.S. that the U.S. government will have secret access to their data," Jonsdottir said in a statement released through her attorneys at EFF. "People around the world will take note, and since they can easily move their data to companies who host it in locations that better protect their privacy than the U.S.does, I expect that many will do so. I am very disappointed in today's ruling because it is a huge backward step for the United States' legacy of freedom of expression and the right to privacy."
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