Judge Rules Against Privacy and Free Speech in Twitter/WikiLeaks Case

November 10, 2011

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: (212) 549-2666; media@aclu.org

Make a Difference

Your support helps the ACLU defend privacy rights and a broad range of civil liberties.

Give Now

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – A federal 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. The court also refused to unseal or publicly list all orders and other court documents relating to the parties in the case, including orders that may have been sent to other companies besides Twitter.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation represent Birgitta Jonsdottir, an Icelandic parliamentarian and one of the Twitter users whose records were sought by the government.

“Internet users don’t automatically give up their rights to privacy and free speech when they use services like Twitter,” said Aden Fine, staff attorney for the ACLU Speech, Privacy and Technology Project. “The government shouldn’t be able to get this kind of private information without a warrant, and they certainly shouldn’t be able to do so in secret. An open court system is a fundamental part of our democracy, and the very existence of court documents should not be hidden from the public.”

Today’s decision was an appeal of rulings made by a magistrate judge.

"With this decision, the court is telling all users of online tools hosted in the U.S. that the U.S. government will have secret access to their data,” said Jonsdottir. "People around the world will take note, and since they can easily move their data to companies who host it in locations that better protect their privacy than the U.S. does, I expect that many will do so. I am very disappointed in today's ruling because it is a huge backward step for the United States’ legacy of freedom of expression and the right to privacy."

Today’s ruling and other information about the case are available online at:
www.aclu.org/free-speech/twitter-wikileaks-court-order

Statistics image