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FindLaw columnist Eric Sinrod writes regularly in this section on legal developments surrounding technology and the Internet.
Is the information you post via social media of potential governmental interest? Probably not, but still, it's possible.
To bring home the point, Twitter just issued its first Transparency Report. That report details the number of government demands it has received for user information in the first six months of 2012.
What do the numbers reveal?
Most of the demands for information come from the U.S. government, according to eWeek.com. Recent demands related to 948 users; Twitter has complied to some extent (or entirely) with 75% of those U.S. government requests.
Japan's government comes in second, with 98 requests to Twitter relating to 147 users. The company has only responded to 20% of those requests, Twitter's Transparency Report states.
So why is it that the government seeks social media information? The most common reason is to seek information pertaining to ongoing criminal investigations. Also, once in a while, Twitter will receive a request from a foreign government to remove content from its site; however, Twitter does not tend to comply with those requests.
Twitter does receive a fair number of copyright takedown notices. Indeed, between January and June of this year, more than 3,000 such requests were received relating to almost 6,000 accounts. Twitter reports that 38% of copyrighted material has been removed pursuant to such notices.
While the numbers in Twitter's Transparency Report may seem high, in reality they are a drop in the ocean of Twitter users and communications. Still, there is the potential that your social media communications could be of governmental interest or subject to copyright takedown notices. But, if you are far afield from criminal activity and if you are not violating any copyrights, you likely will not be bothered. So do the right thing out there and tweet responsibly.
Eric Sinrod is a partner in the San Francisco office of Duane Morris LLP (http://www.duanemorris.com) where he focuses on litigation matters of various types, including information technology and intellectual property disputes. His Web site is http://www.sinrodlaw.com and he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. To receive a weekly email link to Mr. Sinrod's columns, please send an email to him with Subscribe in the Subject line. This column is prepared and published for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The views expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the author's law firm or its individual partners.