US orders Twitter to hand over private information

A member of parliament in Iceland is starting a legal fight to stop the US getting hold of her private information and messages.

Birgitta Jonsdottir, an Icelandic MP, was a former WikiLeaks volunteer. This alone has led to the US justice department issuing a subpoena directly to Twitter to get hold of her information. Jonsdottir said on Twitter that the “USA government wants to know about all my tweets and more since november 1st 2009. Do they realize I am a member of parliament in Iceland?”

She said that the US was “just sending a message and of course they are asking for a lot more than just my tweets.” Demanding a meeting with the US ambassador to Iceland, she adds “the justice department has gone completely over the top.” US authorities had requested personal information from her as well as private messages from Twitter, and she is now considering her legal position.

It’s not just about my information. It’s a warning for anyone who had anything to do with WikiLeaks. It is completely unacceptable for the US justice department to flex its muscles like this”, Jonsdottir stated.

The US has already investigated people who have merely donated to WikiLeaks via Mastercard, Visa and PayPal, however the online watchdog the Electronic Privacy Information Centre (EPIC) has already requested that the US authorities hand over information regarding their investigations into people who have donated. Marc Rotenberg, president of EPIC, said it appeared as if the US justice department was looking at building a case against WikiLeaks and Julian Assange, though Rotenberg added that it seems “unlikely” that a lawful prosecution could be brought against WikiLeaks.

Those who read my post Facebook Law Enforcement should be aware that the US authorities are already monitoring social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, and users should be aware that the much-heralded rise in social networking can have detrimental effects as well as beneficial ones. Your personal information is very valuable in the 21st Century, where information is becoming a new currency, and not even foreign members of parliament are safe.

Remember, this is coming from the country who ordered the spying on fellow UN members, and who requested personal biometric data from various African leaders, according to leaked diplomatic cables. They do not respect private, personal information. Yet they are well aware of its importance.

Facebook Law Enforcement

Visualising Friendships


Mapping Friendships - Planet Facebook


Facebook intern Paul Butler has generated a stunning visualisation that shows the relationship between over 500 million Facebook users. “I was interested in seeing how geography and political borders affected where people lived relative to their friends”, he writes. “I wanted a visualization that would show which cities had a lot of friendships between them”.

The image above shows where people live in relation to their Facebook friends, with each line representing a connection between different cities. Brighter lines = more friends between the cities.

After adjusting the graphic and data, Butler was surprised at the detailed image of the globe that emerged, though he writes: “What really struck me, though, was knowing that the lines didn’t represent coasts or rivers or political borders, but real human relationships. Each line might represent a friendship made while travelling, a family member abroad, or an old college friend pulled away by the various forces of life.

“When I shared the image with others within Facebook, it resonated with many people. It’s not just a pretty picture, it’s a reaffirmation of the impact we have in connecting people, even across oceans and borders.”

The large sections of the world that are missing represent the areas with the least Facebook presence, for example China and Central Africa.

Facebook Law Enforcement

U.S. Department of Homeland Security Official ...

Image via Wikipedia

The US government has, earlier this year, released documents outlining a new program that involves tracking social networking websites and social media websites. Facebook already has procedures in place, dating back to 2007 and updated yearly, to submit personal information of its users to law enforcement agencies should the need arise. The data that it is willing to hand over ranges from your mobile number and contact details, to your friend lists; from photos you have uploaded and been tagged in, to video posts that you have uploaded; from wall posts to status updates; even your IP address and session cookies. The list goes on. Facebook has long been criticised for its handling of private data and the fact that you can never fully “delete” your account, so those who value their privacy and security will be perturbed to know that Facebook is willing to share your personal information, friends, family, IP address, etc with relevant authorities. There are those who state that, “if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear”, though this statement has been criticised by many. Are we sleep-walking into a surveillance state? Is the surveillance state already here?

As stated, the potential for government agencies to request personal data that you upload to Facebook is already in place, but that it not the end of social media monitoring. Facebook is but one social media website out of many. All social media users should be aware of the types of information that can legitimately be passed on to various agencies, and the true extent of the monitoring. Earlier this year, Continue reading