According to The Associated Press, Twitter has complied with a judge's order to hand over the Tweets of an Occupy Wall Street protestor. Twitter was ordered by Judge Matthew Sciarrino Jr. to turn over the information by today or face steep fines if it refused to do so.
On April 23, 2012, I stated that, "Once a Tweet is public to the entire world you don't have an expectation of privacy even if the Tweet has been deleted. Former Congressman Anthony Weiner learned the hard way (no pun intended) that once you post something publicly you have no expectation of privacy.
On July 3, 2012, I stated that, "If the Tweets had been on a protected Twitter account then a warrant may have been required to access the Tweets. In general, I have no problem with law enforcement obtaining and utilizing social media evidence. However, the government must go through the proper legal channels to obtain, authenticate, and utilize social media evidence at trial.
On September 11, 2012, I stated, "while I applaud Twitter fighting for the digital privacy rights of its users, I believe that continuing to fight a subpoena for content that was once public is a losing battle. However, I believe that Twitter along with other social media companies should continue fighting for the personal privacy rights of its users."
There may be future situations where the facts may better support an expectation of privacy for the Tweeter. However, it appears that the Tweets requested by the Manhattan District Attorney were intended for the entire world to view after they were posted. Since the account that posted the requested Tweets did not activate its privacy settings, I believe it is very difficult to successfully argue that there is an expectation of privacy for the Tweets in question.
To learn how social media intersects with the law you may contact me at www.shearlaw.com.
Copyright 2012 by the Law Office of Bradley S. Shear, LLC. All rights reserved.