Back in September, a New York Supreme Court Judge ruled that Twitter must provide the tweets from Harris or risk high fines. The judge said that the tweets were not considered private; therefore, a warrant was not required. Once the tweets were sent, the judge said they became the property of Twitter.
Twitter has contested the action, saying that the tweets are the property of the user. According to a spokesperson, Twitter also wanted to stay out of the litigation by making the users responsible for their own content. The company did not want to be put in the position where it would be required to review every tweet that is sent.
With a guilty plea, Harris can be fairly confident that his tweets will remain private. There is some speculation that the tweets may implicate other people and is the reason for his concern over making them available to law enforcement.
This is not the first case involving the government’s rights in regards to internet information. Email providers have also been compelled to release records to the courts. Many organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union is concerned that this action will affect users’ rights to privacy and free speech.
Many agencies like the ACLU applaud Twitter’s stand against handing over private user information. Advocates for the other side say it is an important method to catching criminal activity. Emails and text messages have been used as evidence in many types of criminal cases to obtain a guilty verdict that otherwise might not have been rendered.
Regardless of which side you are on, you can expect more cases like this in the future as the use of the internet continues to grow.
[Image via theblackbaygroup]