Twitter Sets Up to Sue US Government Over Data Requests

No company is safe from the Silicon Valley-wide gag order currently imposed on many of the major tech firms from California, and Twitter is just one of many who are on the offensive in this fight, pushing back on an issue that none of them could win all on their own.

Recently, several industry leaders including Microsoft, Google, and Yahoo were finally granted permission to open their books to the page covering a portion of the data requests they’ve received since 2006, however there were still a variety of restrictions in place regarding what exactly the company could and couldn’t disclose.

This is where Twitter thinks the United States justice system needs to step in for a second look, and in a blog post from this Thursday, Twitter’s manager for global legal policy Jeremy Kessel spoke out against the US government’s handling of the data requests and the distribution of the information contained within to the public at large.

“We think the government’s restriction on our speech not only unfairly impacts our users’ privacy, but also violates our First Amendment right to free expression and open discussion of government affairs.”

Twitter isn’t the only company to sue over this issue, however they are the first to speak out against the incredibly broad and non-specific nature of the data that’s being released. See, instead of being allowed to tell the public exactly how many data requests were sent and received between the tech companies and their government, firms like AOL and Facebook are forced to speak in as vague of terms as possible.

Requests are rounded up to the nearest “thousandth”, with companies who may have received zero still being forced to qualify that statistic as “anywhere between none and 999”. It’s here the problem becomes more evident, because without an accurate depiction of the number of messages exchanged, there will never be a surefire way to decide who we should trust our data with as customers, or who might be cooperating with Uncle Sam enough to designate a service switch up.

As of the latest transparency report, the US is still asking for the lion’s share of data from Twitter, with their requests just totaling over 59 percent of the total haul. Next in line is Japan, followed by Saudi Arabia, and then Spain.