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Twitter’s Law Enforcement Policies Revisited Again – Social Tech eDiscovery

It’s time to take another look at the social media platforms to see how they handle private information and law enforcement requests (such as subpoenas).  Let’s start with Twitter.

In 2010 and 2012, we reviewed Twitter’s Privacy Policy and Law Enforcement Guidelines.  Since our last review, despite their efforts to fight it, Twitter was ordered to produce tweets for a New York criminal case (People v. Harris).  At the time, Manhattan Criminal Court Judge Matthew Sciarrino stated that “If you post a tweet, just like if you scream it out the window, there is no reasonable expectation of privacy”, but acknowledged that his decision was “partially based on Twitter’s then terms of service agreement”, which was subsequently modified to add the statement “You Retain Your Right To Any Content You Submit, Post Or Display On Or Through The Service.”  After its appeal was denied, Twitter ultimately complied with the order.

There aren’t a lot of changes to Twitter’s Privacy Policy since our post in 2012, though the page is rearranged.  Most information in Twitter is still publicly shared with everyone, as noted by the tip at the top – “What you say on Twitter may be viewed all around the world instantly” (which former congressman and failed NYC mayor candidate Anthony Weiner famously discovered).  Your privacy settings determine whether some information such as location of tweets, email address and cell phone number is private or not.

In the Privacy Policy, Twitter now provides some details about Data Retention of account data, which is about 30 days from the date of deactivation, with the data being permanently deleted within a week afterwards.  Although the Data Retention section of the Guidelines for Law Enforcement page still states “Twitter retains different types of information for different time periods”.

One key change to the Guidelines for Law Enforcement page is that Twitter now provides a web form for law enforcement officers to submit general inquiries or emergency disclosure requests (no more sending faxes!).  If you’re not an authorized law enforcement or government representative, you can’t use the form.

Tomorrow, we will take a look at Twitter’s latest Transparency Report to show government requests for data over the last six months of 2013.  See you then!

So, what do you think?  Have you needed to request information from Twitter for litigation purposes?  Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

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