Twitter releases two national security letters from FBI to reveal user data violating law
New York, Jan 30: Twitter became the latest tech giant after Yahoo, Cloudflare and Google to release national security letters (NSLs) from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The FBI has forced them to reveal user data to the government violating 2008 US Justice Department memo that had limited such orders to phone billing details.
Twitter on Thursday published two surveillance order requests made by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The FBI has ended up in misusing the scope of legal guidance to seek internet records by issuing national security letters. After Google and Yahoo, Twitter is the third company to release order requests made by FBI.
While Twitter officials conformed that it did not hand over all the information that FBI has sought. Instead, Twitter had provided a very limited set of data in response to NSLs consistent with federal law and interpretive guidance from the US Department of Justice.
In 2015 and 2016, the FBI had issued two national security letters requesting Twitter to share a few records of electronic communication. The data sought included information on email header and browsing history. In 2008, the US Department of Justice had said that such NSLs should be limited to phone billing records.
The letters are government orders to seek communications data from service providers. These can be issued without informing the person whose data is being accessed.
The tech companies have been speaking up since the last eight months about the NSLs “that came with gag orders that prevented Twitter from telling the public or the targeted users about the government’s demands in two letters it received in 2015 and 2016”, Tech Crunch reported.
The FBI recently lifted these gag orders, allowing Twitter to acknowledge the NSLs for the first time.
In the newly published NSLs, the FBI asked Twitter to turn over “the name, address, length of service, and electronic communications transactional records” of two users.
The micro-blogging site said it gave a “very limited set of data” in response to the requests and demanded more freedom in keeping their point.
“Twitter remains unsatisfied with restrictions on our right to speak more freely about national security requests we may receive, Twitter associate general counsel Elizabeth Banker wrote in a blog post.
“We would like a meaningful opportunity to challenge government restrictions when ‘classification’ prevents speech on issues of public importance,” Banker added.
Twitter has already disclosed these two letters and informed the targeted users and is suing the Department of Justice in an effort to speak more publicly about secret requests for user data.