Mar 112011
 March 11, 2011  Posted by  Court, Online

Matthew Barakat of AP reports that a  federal magistrate has ruled that prosecutors can demand the Twitter account information of certain users in their criminal probe into the disclosure of classified documents on WikiLeaks.

Will have more on this later after EFF and the ACLU have time to issue statements.

Small update: Emptywheel has a copy of the court opinion, here.

Update 2:  Just got done reading the opinion. Some key impressions:

Judge Buchanan was clearly unimpressed and unpersuaded by arguments made by EFF and the ACLU on all issues before her.  Her opinion makes clear that since DOJ was not requesting the content of communications, the individuals had no standing under 2704(d) to challenge the order.  Even putting the lack of standing aside, though, she found no merit in arguments that IP addresses are private information and that in combination with other information, may reveal activities within the home that would fall under Fourth Amendment protection.   Liberally applying third party doctrine, Judge Buchanan ruled that individuals who signed up for a Twitter account and clicked “I agree” were agreeing to have Twitter obtain and store their IP address, and as such, they had no reasonable expectation of privacy in their IP address in dealing with Twitter.

The judge also dismissed any First Amendment/chilling effects arguments, noting that tweets were public, and content was not being sought.

Buchanan also held that DOJ’s application for the order met the legal requirements set by the Stored Communications Act as to relevance to an ongoing criminal investigation, and she refused to set/apply a higher bar suggested by attorneys for the Twitter users.

All in all, I saw nothing in the opinion that seemed to leave any door open or acknowledge any possible merit to the attorneys’ arguments.  That said, they’re a wonderfully creative group, and I look forward to seeing on what grounds they appeal this.

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