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FBI Requests for Twitter Account Info Out of Bounds?

Image: FBI Requests for Twitter Account Info Out of Bounds?

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By    |   Monday, 30 Jan 2017 06:14 AM

FBI requests for Twitter to turn over account information for some users without a warrant may be out of bounds, privacy advocates said after the social media company revealed two demands for such information.

Twitter disclosed on Friday two national security letters it received from the FBI in 2015 and 2016 seeking Internet information from specific users. The letters had come with gag orders that prevented the company from talking about them until the order was recently lifted, reported Reuters.

The letters requested data known as electronic communication transaction records, which can include some email header data and browsing history, among other information.

"We have provided each of the account holders with copies of the relevant NSLs (certain information redacted to protect privacy) as well as the account data we were compelled to produce," Elizabeth Banker, associate general counsel for global law enforcement with Twitter, said in a statement on the company's website Friday.

"While the actual NSLs request a large amount of data, Twitter provides a very limited set of data in response to NSLs consistent with federal law and interpretive guidance from the U.S. Department of Justice," the statement continued.

In December, the Christian Science Monitor reported that Google published eight national security letters it had received from the FBI requesting digital records of some users from 2010 to 2015. Google's gag order had been lifted in October.

Andrew Crocker, staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told the Monitor then that the disclosure of the letters represented a "small amount of progress" toward transparency.

"It's only eight out of tens of thousands, really hundreds of thousands over the course of the years that FBI has been using these in this way," Crocker said. "But they're so rare. I mean, there are really so few that have been published that any attention on NSLs is progress because they really are this sort of secret, little-understood tool."

Reuters said privacy advocates believe that the records requests go beyond limitations set in a 2008 Justice Department legal memo, which concluded such orders should be constrained to phone billing records.

"This is an ongoing practice and it is significantly beyond the scope of what is intended," Crocker told Reuters.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is challenging the constitutionality of the letters in the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, stated Reuters.

Banker said Twitter had also filed a lawsuit, Twitter v. Lynch, charging that the government is violating its First Amendment rights.

"We continue to believe that reporting in government-mandated bands does not provide meaningful transparency to the public or those using our service," Banker wrote in the Twitter statement. "However, the government argues that any numerical reporting more detailed than the bands in the USA Freedom Act would be classified and as such not protected by the First Amendment."

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FBI requests for Twitter to turn over account information for some users without a warrant may be out of bounds, privacy advocates said after the social media company revealed two demands for such information.
fbi, requests, twitter, account
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2017-14-30
Monday, 30 Jan 2017 06:14 AM
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