On Friday a federal magistrate judge in Virginia granted the US government access to the private records of three Twitter users, including Icelandic MP Birgitta Jónsdóttir, as part of its investigation of Wikileaks. But Birgitta’s lawyers at American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) claimed this ruling violates two basic rights in the US Constitution: privacy and freedom of speech.
“With so much of our digital private information being held by third parties—whether in the cloud or on social networking sites like Twitter—the government can track your every move and statement without you ever having a chance to protect yourself,” said EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn, an EFF press release quoted. “We’re disappointed that the court did not recognize that people using digital tools deserve basic privacy.”
Thus far the rationale behind the invasion of defendants’ personal records has been tight-lipped affair: the public nor the three Twitter users were given access to some of the documents that the government submitted to the court to justify obtaining the Twitter records. The situation was only brought to light when Twitter informed its Birgitta et al that the US government was attempting to gain access to their information. The court did, however, deny the government’s request to conduct last month’s hearing concerning the records in secret.
“Except in extraordinary circumstances, the government should not be able to obtain this information in secret,” said Aden Fine, staff attorney with the ALCU Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, according to the press release. EFF and ALCU plan to appeal the decision on behalf of their client Birgitta.
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