Social Tech eDiscovery: Twitter Law Enforcement Policies Revisited
April 19, 2012
Back in January, we revisited Facebook’s Law Enforcement policies and found that they had changed quite a bit from the original post we published back in September 2010 (shortly after the blog was launched). Even the link was no longer active, so we had to “go hunting” for the new location for the law enforcement page. It seems appropriate to take an updated look at Twitter’s policies to see if anything has changed there from the post we published back in September 2010 regarding those policies.
Private Information within Twitter
- Email address;
- Cell phone or address book (to enable Twitter to help you find Twitter users you know)
- Location information (to track your location where you’re “tweeting” from); and
- Log data (IP address, browser type, the referring domain, pages visited, your mobile carrier, device and application IDs, and search terms).
You can also set “Tweet privacy” so that only certain people will receive your “tweets” or send private messages through the direct message syntax in Twitter. Sometimes, information meant to be private messages to one individual can be inadvertently published to all if you’re not careful – as former congressman Anthony Weiner found out (remember him?). You can also now add photos to tweets directly in Twitter, which would be private if the tweets are private themselves (this does not apply to photos referenced in tweets stored on third party image providers like Flickr, Twitpic or yFrog).
Requesting Private Information from Twitter
If you’re considering requesting provide information from Twitter for litigation purposes, here is what you need to know (from the Guidelines for Law Enforcement page on the Twitter site):
- Private Information Requires a Subpoena or Court Order: Non-public information about Twitter users is not released except “as lawfully required by appropriate legal process such as a subpoena, court order, or other valid legal process”. Twitter notes that they don’t “require email verification or identity authentication”, so the information may not be valid for fake or anonymous profiles.
- Emergency Requests for Information: Twitter evaluates these on a case-by-case basis, but will usually provide the information if there is “a good faith belief that there is an emergency involving the death or serious physical injury to a person”, assuming they have it. Emergency requests can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter notes that only email from law enforcement domains will be accepted and all others will be disregarded.
- Requests from Non-U.S. Law Enforcement: Twitter will honor requests for user information from foreign law enforcement agencies if they are requested through a U.S. court.
- Notifying Users of Information Requests: Twitter will notify users of requests for their information prior to disclosure unless they’re prohibited from doing so by statute or court order.
- Information to Be Included in Requests: Requests must include the username and URL of the Twitter profile in question, details about the specific information being requested and its relationship to the investigation and a valid email address for them to acknowledge receipt of the legal request.
- Methods for Requesting Information: Twitter only accepts legal process from law enforcement agencies delivered by mail or fax. That’s a very 1970s restriction for an organization whose business it is to provide 21st century technology to its customers.
Now you know how to request private user information, provided you’re a law enforcement organization or have a subpoena or court order to serve them with.
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.
Disclaimer: The views represented herein are exclusively the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views held by CloudNine Discovery. eDiscoveryDaily is made available by CloudNine Discovery solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscoveryDaily should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.