It may not actually be round five, but it's been a while since I updated Shareable readers on my prosecution for disorderly conduct in connection with Occupy Wall Street that has turned into a surprisingly important test case for online privacy. Last I wrote, the judge had yet to rule on my excellent volunteer legal team's motions for my intervention to stop the subpoena of my Twitter account by the Manhattan District Attorney's office. Since then, the judge ruled that I did not have the standing to challenge the subpoena, as the tweets were owned not by me, but by Twitter Inc. If they didn't decide to intervene to stop the request, then there was nothing I could do to stop it.
This looks like a direct counter to the judge's ruling that users surrender their right to a say over their own privacy when they agree to Twitter's terms. It's also the most far-reaching declaration of users' rights with regard to protecting their information from government search by any of the big social media companies.
Late last week, some civil liberties stalwarts filed an amicus brief with the court in favor of my claim. In the brief, attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union, New York Civil Liberties Union, Electronic Frontiers Foundation, and Public Citizens, Inc. wrote a strong defence of Internet privacy and its importance:
"If individuals knew that the government could combine what they have been saying for the past three-and-a-half months with where they were when they said those things, what time of day they read certain websites or communicated with their friends, how long they read certain websites and took to write messages, and whether communications were made via a mobile phone, laptop, or personal computer (and therefore whether the individuals were more likely to say certain things from work, from their home, or from coffee shops), the certain result would be that individuals would be chilled from engaging in those communications as freely."
"individuals have long had the legal ability to challenge government requests to third parties that implicate constitutional rights. After all, the data the government wants pertains to Harris, not Twitter. And while we (and others) applauded Twitter for standing up for its user in this instance, many tech companies holding tons of data about their users won't, leading to potential constitutional violations that have no way to be challenged in court. It's crucial for users to be able to stand up for themselves, instead of hoping that other companies follow Twitter's lead."