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Twitter sued the Justice Department last Tuesday. The government does not allow them and several other online companies to release reports on NSA data requests. The tech giant wants to tell people exactly how many requests were made, and what types of data were requested. The government is rejecting complete data requests reporting, claiming that it harms national security.
Data Requests Should Be Transparent
The basis of the Twitter suit is that the First Amendment protects their rights to report data requests. But government restrictions on publishing information about how much data the NSA is requesting violates these rights. Google and Microsoft along with other tech giants made similar moves in the past, the former also citing First Amendment rights. These companies have also added security measures to prevent government snooping. But Twitter is prepared to take additional steps to get permission for more than just a general overview. Twitter wants the gag order on NSA requests gone for good.
Users of the notorious nine who participated in the NSA’s mass surveillance program also want greater transparency. They deserve it, too, and have the right to demand reports on who has been snooping on their online activities. They want to know which companies they can trust to keep their promises about user data privacy. Twitter wants to give its users complete information on what legal steps the NSA has and has not taken in requesting their information. Throttling the company’s ability to tell people about the data requests is unconstitutional.
Tweets are Public, What About Private Communications?
Twitter does not actually have a lot to report, since most tweets are public to begin with. But the battle for the right to report data requests in detail is important for other online companies. Private chats, emails, and other communications are requested in greater numbers and with greater frequency. It is these types of data requests that people need to see more exact numbers on. The Justice Department released a statement that pointed back to the previous agreement made with tech companies. They said that they were looking over Twitter’s petition. But it seems that they think that providing broad information in wide ranges is enough. Their basis is protecting national security interests.
The government does not want their methods and practices disclosed. They say that doing so would limit their ability to protect the country. But they have not adequately explained how releasing numbers of data requests made would hurt national security. Witter has been striving to settle the matter with the government, but finally had to take it to court. Twitter’s request to publish its last transparency report was denied by the FBI. They said it contained classified information, but did not indicate which parts were not fit for publication. The report was therefore scrapped, and Twitter filed their suit in response to failed efforts to negotiate a fair compromise for transparency report publication.