Wednesday, March 16, 2011


All of who care for freedom of information, speech and expression should be thankful for the recent ruling in my Twitter case. Thankful because it exposes the reality in which we live, at least according to the U.S. Department of Justice and one U.S. judge. The judge’s ruling exposed the blatant truth: that as the U.S. DOJ sees it, and at least according to this first judge, users of the Internet and social media sites hosted in the USA do NOT have any rights as individuals to defend themselves against the tyranny of authorities wanting to use the often sensitive information about us collected by services like Twitter. This includes critical information about the location, timing and recipients of our emails, conversations, messaging and social networking that are now fair game for the “thought police.” It is good that we know that this is how the prosecutors and one judge in the court system in the land of the free views our rights, because now we can do something about regaining those rights!

We are at critical point when it comes to freedom of information and speech. If we don’t act now it might be too late in a years’ time. Everything happens so fast in the realm of the Internet -- our rights are eroding every day at an alarming speed. I urgently suggest and call upon everyone who cares for their rights to their lives online to join me in fighting for these rights.

I am calling for a joint action to demand that all social media sites that host our information in the USA publicly promise to notify their users when they receive government demands for information – and if necessary fight for their ability to do so as Twitter did here in the face of a gag order. They should include that promise in their Terms of Use so that it can be relied on by their users. If they can’t make that pledge, enforced by user terms like Twitter’s, we will leave them and we will demand that authorities recognize our rights to defend ourselves directly. I also challenge Facebook, Google and Twitter to battle for every one of us against unwarranted and sometimes secret demands to our information from the U.S. government.

Here are a few examples that I find unsettling:
Google hosts our entire history of searching and they create a profile of every one of us as consumers so that they can make us targeted costumers for individually directed ads. This is why Google can maintain their services for free.

If authorities get access to some or all of this profiling as the DOJ maintains that they can – do you feel comfortable that they do? Consider this scenario: You are doing research on terrorists or the drug culture for an article or essay – all of your searching is now part of your profile. It is easy to build a very damning and erroneous profile of you simply based on your innocent research. The government maintains that most, if not all of this information is “non-content” and so reachable by them in the same way that my Twitter information was.

Many users do not understand that they are giving away all control of their web usage statistics. Personal data can be used against you in secret! This is very dangerous to those, like me, who are activists, journalists and researchers. It equally endangers the merely curious.

In George Orwell's dystopian novel 1984, a “thoughtcrime” was an illegal type of thought. Are we approaching the sad state of affairs where our public written communications, indeed our very thoughts are seen by an increasingly surveillance-obsessed totalitarian state as “thoughtcrimes”? Is this the kind of world we would wish for our children?

In the next few weeks I will work to gather as many as supporters as possible to be part of this joint action for our rights as users of social media. It will be an effort to our privacy rights and the right to defend our personal information online. Drop me an email if you have ideas on how to take this further so we may make a shockwave of change.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Press release from my lawyers because of twitter records

Court Rules Against Privacy in Battle Over Twitter Records

ACLU And EFF Plan To Appeal Ruling In Case Challenging Government
Attempt To Obtain Private Data in WikiLeaks Investigation

March 11, 2011

Rachel Myers, ACLU, (212) 549-2689 or 2666;
Rebecca Jeschke, EFF, (415) 436-9333 x 125;

ALEXANDRIA – A federal magistrate judge in Virginia ruled today that the
government can collect the private records of three Twitter users as
part of its investigation related to WikiLeaks, and that those users and
the public can be prevented from seeing some of the documents that the
government submitted to the court to justify obtaining their records.
The court denied the government’s request to conduct the hearing in
secret, however, and the court made public all of the documents related
to the users’ legal challenge. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)
and the American Civil Liberties Union plan to appeal the decision on
behalf of their client Birgitta Jonsdottir, an Icelandic parliamentarian.

These secret government demands for information about the subscribers'
communications came to light only because Twitter took steps to ensure
their customers were notified and had the opportunity to respond.  The
ACLU and EFF also asked the court to make public any similar orders to
any other companies

"This ruling gives the government the ability to secretly amass private
information related to individuals’ Internet communications. Except in
extraordinary circumstances, the government should not be able to obtain
this information in secret.  That's not how our system works," said Aden
Fine, staff attorney with the ACLU Speech, Privacy, and Technology
Project.  "If this ruling stands, our client may be prevented from
challenging the government’s requests to other companies because she
might never know if and how many other companies have been ordered to
turn over information about her."

"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.  "We're disappointed that the court did not recognize that
people using digital tools deserve basic privacy and that the government
should be required to meet a high standard before it demands private
information about you from the online services you use, be they Twitter,
Facebook, Gmail or Skype."

EFF and the ACLU plan to appeal the ruling on behalf of their client.

Today’s ruling and other information about the case are available online