Twitter Threatens To Sue Obama Administration Over Gov’t Surveillance Requests
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WASHINGTON (CBS DC) – Twitter is prepared to sue the Obama administration for the right to disclose more detailed information on surveillance requests it receives from the government.
A Thursday blog post from the social media company’s global legal policy chief, Jeremy Kessel, states that privacy and transparency with Twitter customers is eroded by restrictions put on how much information they can disclose on government requests for information.
This comes as fellow tech companies Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft and Yahoo agreed on a deal with the Justice Department to disclose when Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and other national security notices force the companies to turn over information on their users.
Attorney General Eric Holder and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper jointly stated that some previously classified national security data could be disclosed.
“While this aggregate data was properly classified until today, the office of the Director of National Intelligence, in consultation with other departments and agencies, has determined that the public interest in disclosing this information now outweighs the national security concerns that required its classification,” Holder and Clapper said.
But the agreement limits the companies to reporting what Twitter labeled “overly broad” ranges of 250 – 1,000 depending on the national security requests.
Twitter contends that the range is insufficient and undermines transparency to their customers.
“These ranges do not provide meaningful or sufficient transparency for the public, especially for entities that do not receive a significant number of – or any – national security requests,” Kessel writes. “For the disclosure of national security requests to be meaningful to our users, it must be within a range that provides sufficient precision to be meaningful.”
“Allowing Twitter, or any other similarly situated company, to only disclose national security requests within an overly broad range seriously undermines the objective of transparency. In addition, we also want the freedom to disclose that we do not receive certain types of requests.”
The post argues that there has been a “steady increase in information requests” since a 2012 report on the disclosure issue, and that the company has seen a 66 percent increase in requests for account information coming from more than 45 different countries and affecting 6,400 accounts.
The blog post says that the majority of global government requests for account information – 59 percent in the latest report – come from the U.S. government.
Twitter insists it will make transparency reports more available across the globe in the future: “To provide more insight into these requests, we’ve separated emergency requests from non-emergency requests that we have received from U.S. law enforcement for the first time,” reads the Twitter blog.
“We are encouraged to see an increasing number of companies publish their own transparency reports, and have added links to many of those reports on our site. We very much would like to see transparency reports become commonplace for all companies that handle user data and receive government requests.”