Your Tweets Are Not Your Own, Says New York Judge

An Occupy Wall Street protester lost a legal challenge.

(Photo: Scott Beale, Laughing Squid)

You must have known those terms of service you didn’t read would come back to bite you in some Orwellian way. This can’t be good, said a tiny voice in the corner of your mind as you clicked “yes” on Twitter’s lengthy legalese. Oh well! Hashtags! But a New York judge just ruled that the state does not need a warrant to subpoena “any and all user information” related to a Twitter account. Why? Because your tweets belong to Twitter.

The question came up in the case of an Occupy Wall Street protester who is being charged with disorderly conduct during a march across the Brooklyn Bridge. The defense’s legal team filed a motion to quash the subpoena, which was just denied.

Says Reuters:

The judge compared Harris to a bank account holder who by law cannot challenge a subpoena of his records served on his bank. “Twitter’s license to use the defendant’s Tweets means that the Tweets the defendant posted were not his,” the judge wrote in a decision filed Friday.

Twitter’s privacy policy says it will hand over “nonpublic” user information if served with a subpoena. Then the question becomes, what’s Twitter got on you? Private messages, drafts of tweets, maybe location information? There’s a lot of data in them there tweets.

Your Tweets Are Not Your Own, Says New York Judge