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Twitter Files Appeal to Protect Occupy Wall Street Protestor

By Andrew Lu on August 29, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The social media privacy wars have been in the news with sites like Twitter and Facebook being subpoenaed by law enforcement officials seeking information on criminal suspects.

At stake in the privacy wars is your personal information, tweets, and messages made available on these sites.

Twitter is now taking a stand against what it calls "invalid government requests" by appealing an order by a New York City criminal court requiring the site to turn over user information relating to Occupy Wall Street protester Malcolm Harris, reports PC World.

In that case, law enforcement subpoenaed Twitter for the not very specific "any and all" user information, including tweets, related to Occupy Wall Street protestor Malcolm Harris, reports PC World.

Harris is being tried for disorderly conduct in connection with an October 2011 march on the Brooklyn Bridge. The New York City court found that Harris did not have standing to ask the court to quash the subpoenas of Twitter records, reports PC World. So Twitter stepped in on his behalf to fight the subpoena and argue for privacy rights.

When the case reaches a court, it's hard to imagine a judge stepping in and saying that messages you post on Twitter are protected. After all, anyone with access to the Internet can see what you post on Twitter. That's the point of Twitter.

However, the bigger issue may be the scope of the government's subpoena. The government had sought "any and all" user information, which presumably includes much more than tweets. Instead, it could also include private information that is on Twitter databases, though not tweeted. In these cases, privacy may still exist and law enforcement officials may need probable cause to access the records.

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