The first half of 2014 has seen an increase in the number of requests government officials have made to Twitter seeking user data or even the removal of some content.
During the first 6 months of the year, Twitter had over two thousand requests from government bodies with regards to data, mostly in relation to criminal investigations. This was a 46% increase on the figures from the second half of last year according to Twitter’s transparency report which was released last week and is a biannual publication.
Over half of the requests came direct from the United States government.
Within all of the requests, 432 were in regards to removal of content that is deemed illegal or defamatory in different countries around the world.
Since Google revealed a transparency report in 2010, revealing the number of government data requests in a report, this has quickly become the latest thing to do. Most recently, Facebook, Verizon and Microsoft have followed suit.
In comparison to Twitter in the latter part of 2013, Google received a huge 27,000 user data requests and Microsoft announced numbers of 35,000 for the same time period.
The increase in requests is following ‘the market trend’ according to a spokesperson for Twitter, though another factor behind this could also be due to its current international expansion.
Turkey was highlighted as just one of the countries that has experienced a small, yet significant, increase in data requests. However, the Turkish government earlier this year restricted access to Turkish citizens due to an anti-government speech that took place on the site.
According to Twitter, they aim to notify users if they have been targeted by government officials with a data request, unless they have been specifically prohibited from actually doing so; however the company is allowed to not comply with a data request if the request is ‘too broad or it fails to identify an actual account.’
It was not announced by Twitter just how many data requests they had received were in relation to national security matters, as traditionally laws have stopped companies from disclosing the numbers of national security as well as U.S Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court requests that they receive.
However earlier this year, some headway was made in relation to the publishing of these secret data requests when the Obama administration reached an agreement in conjunction with the U.S Department of Justice and other technology companies to agree to let them release the information, however this was only sanctioned in ranges of 1000.
Since this initial proposal, Twitter has met with senior officials from the Department of Justice as well as officials from the FBI in an effort to afford some further clarify, but so far these talks have progressed no further and things remain rather cloudy.
In an effort to push things further along, Twitter sent a draft copy of the midyear transparency report to the Department of Justice, detailing the data that they proposed releasing, but it was not acknowledged with a response.
A Twitter spokesperson stated, “We are weighing our legal options to provide more transparency to users.”
It is clear that Twitter want to provide more clarity in their reports and reveal more data, but government bodies seem less than happy about it.
This could get interesting. Let’s see what happens next.
Image Credit: http://bit.ly/1s4FFJQ
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