Human Beings vs. Today’s Government

I was glad to read that Twitter is considering suing the Obama Administration because of its unjust restrictions on Twitter’s ability to disclose information about government requests for user data. The Hill reports that Twitter’s head of global legal policy, Jeremy Kessell, blogged about his dissatisfaction with a recent agreement reached between tech companies and the Justice Department, an agreement that still restricts the companies disclosures to reporting a range of the number of requests received. Whereas the range before the agreement was 1 to 1,000 requests, now the range, for some categories of requests, is 1 to 250. How generous of the government!

The government says it has a compelling interest in restricting the disclosures, and that this justifies the reduction of customer trust—and therefore the reduction in business—that Twitter and other tech companies will suffer. Tell that to the homeowners in New London, Connecticut, who had their homes seized, and later bulldozed, in accordance with eminent domain law. Nine years after the United States Supreme Court upheld this use of eminent domain in the name of “economic development,” the land lies empty.

Twitter’s quest for greater transparency could be a nice complement to Lavabit founder Ladar Levison’s current legal battle with the U.S. Government. The government had an arguably valid order to obtain data on Lavabit’s most famous user, Edward Snowden. But if Levison had handed over his encryption keys as ordered, the government would have had access to account data of all Lavabit’s users, and Levison would have had no way to know whether the government was abusing that access. To hear more about Levison’s decision to shut down his company rather than surrender access to all his users’ data, listen to my Feb. 7 interview with him here.

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