back to article Twitter may sue US government over right to disclose snooping orders

Twitter says that the current compromise allowing tech companies to disclose some of the data requests orders made in secret by the US intelligence services isn't good enough, and it may sue to get the right to be more transparent. "We think the government’s restriction on our speech not only unfairly impacts our users' …


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  1. Mark 85 Silver badge

    Twitter stands alone on this?????

    <rant on> WTF???? Why isn't every web entity (large or small), every ISP, even every domain holder joining them in this? Yeah.. most people say "it's Twitter--meh." but if the government spying is to be stopped or at least more open, this suit should be joined by all. It is a start in the right direction.

    The NSA, et al, deal with companies that have an every dog for themselves attitude. And because the companies have this attitude, the governments play one against the other and their spying goes unchecked and can only get worse. It's time that not only the people.. the users... but the providers stand up and say "enough"!!!

    Yes, we know that Google and the rest view users as the product and data collection as the means to that end. But for the government to do it and use that data in ways not yet known or even thought of can only make the US government (or any country for that matter) the real masters of the slaves.

    A wise person once said: "united we stand, divided we fall". Well, the US is divided by selfish interests and the fall is coming. <rant off>

    The really sad part is that what could have great is going to end up as something straight out of Orwell. If we're not there yet, we are well on the way to that kind of hell on earth.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Twitter stands alone on this?????

      I was just thinking this is how a real coup d'état happens, in the modern, post- all the failed regime-changes-based-on-mass-murder of the last century. It has been referred to often enough here about the way to boil a frog, but I don't think many people can comprehend the endpoint.

      So the analogies conjured up are too speculative, thus too easily dismissed as fanciful, as sci-fi. A while back we were talking about sleep-walking into a police state - but it isn't sleep-walking, it is conscious denial. Everyone except the insane is terrified of the world we're inexorably riding to like cattle in an abattoir truck, and only very, very few of us have got the nerve to look just the same.

      It looks like it takes the majority a conscious effort to ignore the big picture and concentrate on just having a good time, and looking at them it takes me a conscious effort not to think 'we're fucked'.

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. tom dial Silver badge

      Re: Twitter stands alone on this?????

      We should keep in mind that there are two components to the data collection. One of them, the wholesale scanning of traffic, is not the subject here. The other is data demands made by warrant or subpoena. It would, indeed, be nice to have some numbers describing the total of all NSL and FISC orders, both the number of orders and the number of accounts. The only real source for such data would be the national security agencies which issue NSLs and the FISC or the agencies that obtain the orders. Such numbers might overstate the problem, since there almost certainly are instances in which account information for a single individual is demanded in multiple orders; but that would not be a bad thing, and the government would be in position to supply a count of the unique individuals affected in addition to the raw figures.

      It is all but certain that many would disbelieve any such reports, although the authorized reports by the respondents would provide a way to validate at least their plausibility.

    4. dssf

      Re: Twitter stands alone on this????? Why is Twitter Alone?

      Well, not quite "alone".

      But, consider that many of the ISPs and social sites may be mum for a reason: maybe many of them are former "company" employees who are simply unable to wander from the reservation. Maybe some of them failed entrance/recruitment exams/quals for joining the Family of Companies of the Government(s), and to redeem themselves, set up quasi-intel agency adjunct? Who knows?

      But, it could be just/yet one more black line item ballooning the national deficit...

  2. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    p**sing in the wind while THE PATRIOT Act is still in effect.

    This is a very small step toward transparency.

  3. tom dial Silver badge

    Fewer than 903 requests touching under 1400 accounts out of however many million Twitter has seems a bit short of being evidence of a police state in the making, especially as the number has not changed greatly over the last year and a half. Twitter's description states that these requests are made "typically in connection with criminal investigations." In the USA that would require a warrant or subpoena, usually from an ordinary court. Their presentation of all requests in a single category clearly indicates that the number of FISA requests and NSLs is quite small.

    I think they are trying to draw attention from their less than stunningly good financials and that we can easily find more worrisome things, such as credit information leaks, with which to concern ourselves.

    1. dssf

      How do we know that

      Twitter is not really a or just another Company-funded entity that has to pretend to be a listed/list-aspiring company?

      Only NSL-handed accountants and upper management would know, since they would have access to the cash flows. Investors might never know unless they, too, are tipped off.

      For all we know, some of the (Ch)Air Force Personal Bots may have live bank accounts so they can have plausible back stories as investors. A billion dollars spread out across 5,000 to 50,000 "bot" would make for a good investment strategy.

      Well, until one, lone live Agent earns the pennies (per minuted) of a batallion of digi-bots and personal. Maybe the USCF/USAF will have to spin these agents off as a brokerage house?

  4. stizzleswick

    To get around the muzzling orders...

    ...the solution would be simple, really: move headquarters out of the U.S. Heck, move the entire business out of the U.S; that's the good thing about the internet: it does not matter where you are based except maybe for tax reasons. So, if Twitter were based in, say, France, let's see what happens if/when the NSA demands to get free access to user data w/o notice to the public. Could be worth a few chuckles. Or move the headquarters to Sealand; that might yield some interesting actions, too...

    In the long run, if U.S. data-collectors like Google, Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, Apple, Microsoft, etc. were to move their headquarters out of the U.S. in order to evade the IMHO ludicrous way the rights of their users are being mishandled there, this would have a rather heavy impact on the U.S. economy. I wonder how long it would take, in that case, for the U.S. Senate to finally get on the job it is currently neglecting, i.e., overseeing the secret services...

    Check, please... mine's the anonymised coat...

    1. tom dial Silver badge

      Re: To get around the muzzling orders...

      In the long run it is likely that intelligence services of various other countries, some operating under fewer constraints than the NSA, and the police agencies of those countries, will cooperate with US officials to deal with terrorism and criminal activity. As they have in the past.

      Moving to the Principality of Sealand sounds interesting, but it is not clear why anyone would want to move to a place where there are no legal protections at all. My own inclination would be Iceland, with both reasonable laws and power availability.

      1. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

        Re: To get around the muzzling orders...

        "My own inclination would be Iceland, with both reasonable laws and power availability."

        Dragged our submarine's anchor across your fiber optic cables. Sorry about that. Perhaps if we had more involvement in the traffic they carry, we'd be more careful next time.

        1. JWLong

          Re: To get around the muzzling orders...

          Submarines don't have anchors, but..........

          Aircraft carriers do, and big ones at that......

          Disclaimer: This information is disclosed without NSA approval!

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Twitter v.

    Round one!

    Where's me popcorn...

    (yes, this is the type of news that warrants POPCORN, no less!)

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    All those request from say Saudi Arabia

    I wonder how many of them are by proxy.

  7. WereWoof

    When they scrape the Data anyway why are they using subpoenas for data they already have? To add a thin veneer of legitimacy? It used to be that "evidence" collected illegally (i.e. breaking and entering or an illegal wiretap) was inadmissible in court and could not be used as a basis to get a warrant to get said (or other) evidence, Now it seems that they get the evidence anyway they can then get a subpoena to make it legal . .

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