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Will Twitter demand government transparency in court?

The tech company has stated it is exploring its legal options concerning its right to divulge data requests from the U.S. government to its users

Since the leaks concerning the U.S. National Security Agency's data collection practices arrived on the desks of Americans -- and eventually on the rest of the world's last June -- technology companies have felt the heat from users and investors alike to confront the surveillance tactics of the government and properly disclose requests to users. Various household-name companies have come forth to ask for the allowance to disclose more transparently the requests the government makes for user data, hoping to quell the fears of angry users. But the road towards transparency will be a long one. And Twitter -- having just recently launched itself as a public company -- is finding no less of an issue at hand considering the legal steps needed to assuage user and investor worries about their data collection.  

Twitter has come out announcing that it is looking into the legal ramifications of divulging more information to the public about the kinds of requests it receives from the government. With its latest transparency report -- showing a 66 percent increase in requests according to The Guardian -- it has declared that the allowances currently allotted by the U.S. Department of Justice are not sufficient for providing the public with an accurate picture of the government's data collection practices, nor does it reinforce the effort to be transparent with users.  

Jeremy Kessel, Twitter's global legal policy manager wrote in a blog post: "We think the government’s restriction on our speech not only unfairly impacts our users’ privacy, but also violates our First Amendment right to free expression and open discussion of government affairs…We have pressed the US Department of Justice to allow greater transparency, and proposed future disclosures concerning national security requests that would be more meaningful to Twitter’s users…We are also considering legal options we may have to seek to defend our First Amendment rights."

These are some of the most aggressive words that have been officially issued by a technology company in such a public spotlight. Google, Yahoo, Facebook, and Microsoft have also all asked for more transparency allowances from the government, but none have threatened legal action. Whether or not Twitter is blowing smoke remains to be seen.   


Further reading:

Compliance: 10 tips for succeeding on Twitter without courting disaster

In advance of IPO, Twitter GC steps down

NSA and GCHQ collecting data through popular mobile apps

Contributing Author

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Juliana Kenny

Juliana Kenny is a contributor to, covering a range of topics including patent litigation, conflict mineral laws, executive compensation, and antitrust regulation. Juliana earned B.A.s...

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