Today, a judge heard arguments from six lawyers against sharing private information on Twitter with the US government. The issue of whether or not the US government had the right to access information – including IP addresses, phone numbers and private messages – from the Twitter accounts of individuals suspected of associating with WikiLeaks has wide implications for online privacy.
In the ongoing case involving WikiLeaks, Twitter and the US government, today marked the first hearing pertaining to overturning a subpoena which would give wide access to confidential information associated with Twitter users to the US government.
In mid-December, the US government issued a subpoena requiring access to personal Twitter information on a number of people associated with WikiLeaks, including Julian Assange and Icelandic MP Birgitta Jonsdottir. The subpoena was initially sealed, meaning that the Twitter users under investigation would have no knowledge of the US government’s access to their information – until Twitter fought, and won, to have the subpoena unsealed to inform the individuals.
Today, three of the Twitter users named in that original subpoena are fighting the US government in court. They have brought the case before a US federal judge in Virginia.
They, and their lawyers, argue that requesting this information is a breach of the First and Fourth Amendment.
According to the Washington Post, one lawyer for the trio had this to say during today’s 90 minute hearing:
“The government wants the information of all connections of our clients on Twitter — who they sent them to and where they were when they sent them. That is basically a map of association.”
He went on to say that releasing the requested information would have “…a chilling effect on the First Amendment.” Government lawyers, on the other hand, argued that not releasing the information would “damage the ongoing investigation,” into WikiLeaks.
The judge has said that she would consider the remarks made today in court.