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Social Media and Law Enforcement: Who Gets What Data and When?


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This month, we were reminded how important it is that social media companies do what they can to protect the sensitive data they hold from the prying eyes of the government. As many news outlets have reported, the U.S. Department of Justice recently obtained a court order for records from Twitter on several of its users related to the WikiLeaks disclosures. Instead of just turning over this information, Twitter "beta-tested a spine" and notified its users of the court order, thus giving them the opportunity to challenge it in court.

We have been investigating how the government seeks information from social networking sites such as Twitter and how the sites respond to these requests in our ongoing social networking Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, filed with the help of U.C. Berkeley’s Samuelson Law, Technology & Public Policy Clinic.

As part of our request to the Department of Justice and other federal agencies, we asked for copies of the guides the sites themselves send out to law enforcement explaining how agents can obtain information about a site’s users and what kinds of information are available. The information we got back enabled us to make an unprecedented comparison of these critical documents, as most of the information was not available publicly before now.

From Electronic Frontier Foundation
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