Twitter Reports Sharp Rise in Government Requests for User Data

Department of Justice


Twitter said government requests for user data grew increased sharply in the past six months as more countries asked for a greater amount of information about users.

More than half of the requests came from the United States, as has been the case since Twitter began issuing its “transparency report” in 2012. Typically, the requests are part of criminal investigations. To obtain non-public information about users -- such as email addresses -- law enforcement agencies have to get a subpoena or court order. Requests for the contents of communications -- such as direct messages or non-public tweets -- require a search warrant.

The report does not include national security requests because Twitter, along with other Internet companies, has been prohibited from disclosing information on such requests. Twitter has been pushing to publish more information about national security orders.

San Francisco-based Twitter Inc. said in a blog post Thursday that it received 2,058 requests from 54 countries in the first six months of the year, including from eight countries that had not previously submitted requests. Twitter produced at least “some information” that the governments asked for in 52 percent of cases worldwide and in 72 percent of requests coming from the United States.

In the last six months of 2013, the short messaging service received 1,410 requests, as has been the case since Twitter began issuing its “transparency report” in 2012. Most Twitter users live outside the United States.

In addition to account information inquiries, Twitter said it also received 432 requests to remove content, up 15 percent from 377 in the last six months of 2013. The number of copyright notices Twitter received increased, by 38 percent to 9,199 compared with the second half of last year.

Other companies, including Google Inc., Apple Inc., Microsoft Corp., Facebook Inc. and Yahoo Inc., have also released similar reports on government requests in recent years.


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