I use social media, I write about it, question it, wonder at it and, more than occasionally, gets very irritated by it and those that abuse it. Issues around privacy continue to be the greatest bugbear and it is quite interesting that the biggest potential abusers of that privacy are now arguing in favor of it.
Well, maybe thatâ€™s stretching things a bit, but Twitter is certainly challenging a US courtâ€™s demands for it to release Tweets of individuals under investigation or charged with crimes. AsÂ GigaOM reports, the case centers on the Twitter account of Malcolm Harris who was arrested while walking on the Brooklyn Bridge during a 2011 protest. Early this year, prosecutors issued subpoenas demanding that Twitter turn over information for two names associated with Harris: â€œ@destructuremalâ€ and â€œ@getsworse.â€ Twitter responded by telling Harris about the subpoenas who then asked a court to quash them.
In an April ruling that raised eyebrows in legal circles, JudgeÂ Matthew Sciarrino Jr. found that Harris couldnâ€™t sue because his tweets belonged to Twitter. The learned judge then rejected Twitterâ€™s own efforts to quash theÂ subpoena, ruling thatÂ Harris hadÂ no privacy rights to his tweetsÂ on the grounds that using Twitter is like â€œshouting on the street where everyone can hear.â€
Twitter took umbrage to these statements and has now filed arguments for its appeal highlighting that is has been a key tool in the fight for freedom in repressed countries and that users actually do have privacy rights using their Twitter accounts. Of course, they have to argue this publicly, otherwise face the backlash of a community becoming increasingly concerned about its own privacy.
The arguments revolve around the key themes that users already have and been able to demonstrate privacy rights in their Twitter content; Twitter users should be given the same rights to challenge subpoenas such as Gmail users have; that Twitter users have privacy rights under the US Fourth Amendment (not sure where that leaves the rest of the world) and that the honorable Judge Sciarrino, Jr. made a terrible mistake in declaring Harrisâ€™ Tweets, even those deleted, were public.
Now the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has chimed in supporting Twitterâ€™s appeal claiming that, â€œUnder the First and Fourth Amendments, we have the right to speak freely on the Internet, safe in the knowledge that the government canâ€™t get information about our speech without a warrant and without satisfying First Amendment scrutiny.â€ Good luck with that one. Constitutional arguments tend to be become very drawn out and expensive affairs.
The same people now fighting in Twitterâ€™s corner today may, some day, be on the opposing side if that very same private data of Tweeters is used for profiling and marketing purposes in future. A very fine difference, surely?
Now that Facebook has gone public and the pressure is mounting for it to show substantial revenues it, too, will come under the spotlight as to what it does with user data, private or otherwise. If you think you know how Facebook deals with privacy, and what your privacy settings actually restrict, then youâ€™d better think again.
Digital Trends has dug deeply into Facebookâ€™s â€˜Data Use Policyâ€™, all 8,500 words of it, and made some very surprising discoveries that users may not be aware of. First and foremost, Facebook can record and access all information you share on Facebook â€”Â all of it, and it can also access information other Facebook users share about you on Facebook. Even scarier is that you donâ€™t even have to have a Facebook account for the social network to scoop up certain bits of data about you that others put there.Â Your life is now an open book, albeit with some of the pages stuck together.
There is no reason to go into detail here but it would makeÂ highly recommend reading for everyoneÂ to get a clear understanding of what can be legally done with your data (if not what is actually being done with it), at least what is being disclosed. Definitely not pre-bedtime reading!
First published at TM Forum asÂ The Insider, 28 August 2012