Ruling Allows US Authorities Unwarranted Access To Any Stored Data

The WikiLeaks Icelandic saga contined with a US judge ruling that Twitter must hand over the tweets of three Icelandic citizens, including parliamentarian and former WikiLeaks affiliate Birgitta Jonsdottir.

More than this, the Virginia district court judge also ruled that other files, such as social network entries, that are held on US soil could also be accessed by the US authorities without notifying the people concerned.

No US-stored data is secure

The implications are likely to create a shockwave through the online social networking world and could have implications for UK companies that store their business data in US data centres. The precedent has been set for privacy agreements between cloud providers and SaaS to be overruled by law enforcement organisations.

Jonsdottir (pictured) said, “With this decision, the court is telling all users of online tools hosted in the US that the US government will have secret access to their data. 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 US 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.”

Jonsdottir and co-defendants Jacob Appelbaum and Rop Gonggrijp only found out that the US authorities had requested access to their accounts because Twitter notified them of the court order. In future, companies hosting data may be gagged and prevented from notifying their customers of such privacy breaches.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), who along with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have represented the defendants in court, has urged other companies to follow Twitter’s lead and promise to inform users when their data is being sought by the government, as part of its Who Has Your Back? campaign.

“When you use the Internet, you entrust your online conversations, thoughts, experiences, locations, photos, and more to dozens of companies who host or transfer your data,” said EFF legal director Cindy Cohn. “In light of that technological reality, we are gravely worried by the court’s conclusion that records about you that are collected by Internet services like Twitter, Facebook, Skype and Google are fair game for warrantless searches by the government.”

Eric Doyle, ChannelBiz

Eric is a veteran British tech journalist, currently editing ChannelBiz for NetMediaEurope. With expertise in security, the channel, and Britain's startup culture, through his TechBritannia initiative

View Comments

  • When I was a silly little kid in the 1950s, I actually believed in the Superman creed: ''truth, justice and the American way.''

    Now that I am much older and wiser, I find that I still believe in ''truth, justice and the American way.'' The Republican fear-era has broken my heart, and badly damaged America both at home and abroad. A country that lives up to these ideals is hard to rally against, to recruit against, which is something that Republicans and fear-mongers have never understood.

Recent Posts

NHS Delays Continue After Windows Outage

Patients told to expect delays into this week as disruption to EMIS booking system leads…

12 hours ago

CrowdStrike Says ‘Significant Number’ Of Systems Back Online

CrowdStrike says 'significant number' of systems affected by global outage now back online, as Russia,…

13 hours ago

VW Chief Discusses Free Trade With China Officials

VW chief executive discusses free and fair trade with Chinese officials in Beijing after EU…

19 hours ago

Editorial: CrowdStrike Outage: Is Our IT Too Fragile?

The recent CrowdStrike outage has caused global IT disruptions, impacting businesses and raising serious concerns…

19 hours ago

Nigeria Fines Meta $220m Over Privacy Infringements

Nigerian competition and consumer agency fines Meta $220m over violations of privacy law, after probe…

19 hours ago

Tesla Production Lines ‘Shut Down’ By Global IT Outage

Some Tesla production lines reportedly shut down by worldwide systems failures linked to CrowdStrike software…

20 hours ago