News that the Justice Department had obtained a court order directing that Twitter turn over records relating to several individuals associated with Wikileaks has raised once again questions about the standards for government access to the ocean of data generated about our activities in the digital age.
On the one hand, the Twitter story really should not come as a surprise: It is known that the government is conducting a criminal investigation of the disclosure of classified information to WikiLeaks and is trying to determine if there is any liability on the part of WikiLeaks staff or volunteers. At this stage, investigators are likely casting a broad net. WikiLeaks head Julian Assange and others working with WikiLeaks have used Twitter. While Tweets are public, Twitter logs may have IP addresses and other information that could lead to other service providers and more revealing information.
As a matter of evidence and constitutional law, there is very little if any information that is off-limits to the government, especially when that information can be obtained from someone other than the record subject.
And the Internet is a remarkable repository for information about our daily lives, held by the service providers upon whom we depend as a matter of convenience and even necessity. Last week, when I was on KQED's Forum program talking about digital search and seizure issues, one of the other guests, Matt Parrella, a federal prosecutor and computer crime expert, explained how the government views the Internet:
Read more »