back to article Judge OKs feds' access to WikiLeakers Twitter info

A federal judge in Virginia has given investigators access to the Twitter records of four WikiLeaks associates, including the email addresses associated with the accounts and the IP addresses used to access them. Friday's decision by US Magistrate Judge Theresa Buchanan, rejected arguments by the American Civil Liberties Union …


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  1. Donn Bly

    This judge is an idiot

    Any privileged information that I provide under cover of a privacy agreement, such as my email address, telephone number, or credit card info - is PRIVATE information. For a judge to claim that because I voluntarily provided this information freely to a service provider such as twitter for the purpose of creating or maintaining an account that I can no longer have an expectation of privacy is JUST PLAIN WRONG.

    Carried to its logical conclusion, this judge is now saying that all privacy agreements are now contractually worthless and without basis.

    1. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge

      You do realize that the subpeona was issued as part of an investigation...

      Its amazing how quickly people forget that there's an ongoing investigation by US LEOs.

      The content of the posts are public. And the fact that there is no expectation of privacy when making a public post.

      Note that the investigation is limited in to several accounts and specific accounts so in that respect its not overly broad.

      The judge is following the law.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother

    "they had no reasonable expectation of privacy for information they freely gave to Twitter"

    For their public tweets maybe, but other stuff? Email addresses that were not, and were never intended to be, publicly shared?

    What a joke the US "justice" system is these days. There used to be a time when the politicians and judges worked for the people, not against them. Land of the free? Don't make me laugh.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Big Brother

      Can this withstand appeal

      I agree, Tweets are not private by definition, but my account information should be. But then again, I do not have a Twitter account and have never read their terms of service. Given the the way web service providers function (google §11, FaceBook, Apple iTunes) it may be the case that the account information is in fact not private, since nothing else seems to be.


    2. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge

      No Joke.

      Its not a fishing expedition and there was no expectation of privacy.

      The interesting thing is that this was news last Friday. Don't know why Dan waited till today...

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    People should be careful

    Let's be real, people who use Twitter are Twits. In criminal investigations just about everything is fair game. If you don't want your life to be public, you sure as Hell shouldn't be on Twitter.

  4. JohnG

    Double Irony

    The Wikileaks side are arguing that information which the owners wanted to keep secret should remain secret and the US government side are arguing the opposite. I hope that both sides can see the irony of their respective stances.

    1. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge
      Big Brother

      No double irony... just irony on the part of wikileaks supporters.

      The US Government is arguing that there is an ongoing investigation and that the information that Twitter has on these account holders is beneficial to their investigation.

      Its like saying that the government wants a search warrant to search a house because they have reason to believe that the murder weapon is stashed there.

      There is no irony because the government is going to the government to get permission to get this information. That is... through this process, the government is actually protecting the privacy of all individuals.

      The only irony is that exists is that those who are fighting to keep their information private are the same people who argue for transparency.

  5. Anonymous Coward

    Records demanded in secrecy?!?

    So its all above board then.

    I don't understand why these public servants (sic) waste their time swearing to uphold the constitution any more. They're just born again liars.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Two issues here that will no doubt get mixed up...

    Two issues here.

    The US wants to investigate Wikileaks members to see if they conspired to steal classified information, I can totally understand why they're doing this, and as Twitter resides in the US, I don't see any reason why they can't. Considering all they've done, it seems silly not to expect this kind of action. If Wikileaks was just a dropbox for information, like they claimed, they're got nothing to worry about. For the record, I fully support Wikileak's rights to publish the information they published. I'd even say I was a fan.

    Now, the idea that there's "no reasonable expectation of privacy for information" given to Twitter is insane. Public tweets are no doubt public, but the other information, private. In fact, I'm sure the setting for making your tweets private is called, well, making them private. I'm sure there are privacy settings. This judge does not understand how this website works.

    Can't wait until privacy catches up to the digital age. The government isn't allow to read my mail without a good reason, it shouldn't be allowed to get into my e-mail (or Twitter account) either.

    People have got to ask for it, though. The authorities aren't just going to give up that luxury!

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    I hope...

    ...that they were wise enough to use Tor both when tweeting and when registering their fake e-mail accounts. Otherwise, they are... Paris, for the lack of other definition.

    1. Scorchio!!

      Rew: I hope...

      "...that they were wise enough to use Tor both when tweeting and when registering their fake e-mail accounts. Otherwise, they are... Paris, for the lack of other definition."

      I use Tor for pratting around, but for serious things never. There is always a security hole, like this old one (now solved):

      Sure, Julian uses custom encryption but there is always a leak. Always. It's either a member of the team, bugged hardware (and I'll bet that Julian's had an evil maid or two, he said punningly) or similar. Security is always imperfect; the only functions security procedures serve are a) to deter and b) to delay an attack until it is detected.

      1. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge
        Black Helicopters


        I don't think it matters if they use Tor or not.

        The problem is that over enough time you can establish a pattern.

        That is, if I know the transmission point and the end point, do I really need to know the route that the packet took? ;-)

        Tor is good if you want to hide your traffic from snooping eyes in real time. That is if you want to visit a set of unknown sites.

        But we're talking about log tracing and matching.

        There's more to this, but well. you get the idea... ;-)

        1. Scorchio!!
          Thumb Up

          Re: @Scorchoi

          "I don't think it matters if they use Tor or not.

          The problem is that over enough time you can establish a pattern."

          This is the sort of problem that dogs the Cypherpunk and Mixmaster remailers. I've paid no attention to this stuff for a while, but a determined and powerful enemy can do a lot of harm.

          If it happens in the real world it can be traced in the real world. The distinction between on and off line is almost redundant. The problem is akin to that of Cartesian dualism; the mind and body cannot be separated since there has to be a material effect of one on the other and, if so, then each must be material and thus isolable. To put it another way, there is no such thing as a free lunch. :-)

  8. SDCowley
    Paris Hilton

    Let be realistic;

    Your private information will be kept secret if you don't do stupid things like releasing thousands of confidential and damaging documents.

    If you do partake in such activities, then prepare for your life to be invadse.

    If you don't partake then you have NOTHING to worry about; The UKG/USG aren't going to break in to your account.

    Put it another way - Say one of your family members was murdered and there was a very high chance that perp discussed this murder via email. Would it be wrong to gain access to his account or shall we just let him roam free on the streets because it's "personal information".

    You break the law, you lose your civil liberties. Simple.


    (Paris because her life (and body parts) have been invaded more times than I've had hot (or cold) breakfasts/lunches/dinners)

    1. Naughtyhorse

      they came for the gypsies.......


      wake up and smell the coffee

      1. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge


        Here's a post which basically hits the nail on the head. The government has a process in place to protect the privacy of individuals. That protection is to a point. When a crime has been committed, then the government investigating the crime has to go through a process of getting a subpoena to get access to said private information.

        You don't commit a crime, you have the expectation of privacy.

        Is that concept so hard?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward


          Yep, the concept that the police only ever deal with guilty people is a tad hard. How about...

          You don't appear on the police's radar while they're investigating a crime, you have the expectation of privacy.

          ...unless you want to argue that the police always know who is guilty up front ?

          Of course in the real world nobody should have an "expectation" of privacy - if you want it you need to work at it.

    2. Tom 38 Silver badge

      @SDCowley: Pre-judge much?

      Precisely what law has Birgitta Jónsdóttir broken? Nice to see you assume that she is a brazen criminal, since the US authorities are doing some fishing. If they think she is guilty of something, charge her and start extradition procedures with Iceland.

      Lets spin this a bit. Some ex-GF accuses you of rape. Should the police be allowed to requisition your google search history, to see if you search for "extreme porn", or your private facebook messages, to see if you talked about it with someone else?

      I think you would be a bit miffed if the judge allowed this exploration because "updates to your facebook wall are public".

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        Why do you think that there should be a presumption of privacy in a criminal investigation?

        I may not like it, but if I was accused of rape, I wouldn't be supprised if the Police wanted to see if I'd discussed it with anyone, in fact I'd be more supprised if they didn't. What next, the Police shouldn't speak to any witnesses in case they invade the privacy of the accused? Maybe they shouldn't be able to get the accused's cellphone records to see he was potentially in the area that the alledged rape happened?

      2. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge

        @ Tom 38, Presumption of innocense?

        "Precisely what law has Birgitta Jónsdóttir broken? Nice to see you assume that she is a brazen criminal, since the US authorities are doing some fishing."

        Uhm dude, hate to break it to you...

        First this isn't a fishing expedition. Its a very limited search on a few individuals who have already made their identities public and there is a legitimate tie between them and Wikileaks.

        You seem confused by the concept of 'presumed innocent until proven guilty'.

        It appears that you are the one making an assumption that Birgitta Jonsdottir has been accused of breaking a law since her Twitter account is one of those under investigation. The fact that they are investigating means that they don't know the answer and are looking for clues and more information to determine who did what and when.

        But I digress. The point I wanted to make was that the presumption of innocence deals with the defendant during trial. That is that the defendant is presumed innocent until the prosecution can show that there is proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty.

        You don't charge anyone with a crime until you have concluded your investigation and this is why they are asking Twitter to honor their subpoena request.

        And using your hypothetical example... if your ex-GF has credible evidence of rape or enough to warrant a police investigation, then the answer is yes. If there is something in your Facebook page, or viewing history that is relevant to the rape investigation then the police do have the right to search your internet surfing habits.

  9. Daniel 36

    The Logs are manipulated thus tainted

    By twitters own ULA they say that the IP information is not sensitive. OK that is given bug they also say that "Log Data" that Twitter collects, transfers, and manipulates" If twitter by their own ULA confess to manipulating Log data how can it not be declared tainted and inadmissible as evidence and anything gained by those tainted logs be admissible?

    1. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge


      Where do you read that the log data is tainted?

      I don't think you fully comprehend what they say in their ULA.

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