Commend Twitter for Standing Up to Government Violations of Privacy


Target: Dick Costolo, CEO of Twitter

Goal: Commend Twitter’s refusal to cooperate with the National Security Agency’s unlawful seizure of private data

It has come to light that the National Security Agency has been secretly monitoring and storing the online of activities and personal information of all Americans. It has done this as part of a secret program named PRISM, through which the government has gathered and stored the personal information of American citizens from telecommunications and tech companies such as Google, Yahoo, Apple, and Microsoft. This information comes on the heels of the revelation that a secret FISA court had ordered wireless carrier Verizon to turn over all of its customers metadata to the NSA and forbade Verizon from disclosing this data seizure to the public.

Noticeably absent from these still-unfolding scandals is microblogging service Twitter. Twitter has refused to cooperate with these unlawful and unconscionable seizures of private information. The company has a history of resisting orders that it has felt were unlawful or violative of their users’ privacy. Twitter spokesman Jim Prosser has stated, “Twitter users own their Tweets. They have a right to fight invalid government requests, and we stand with them in that fight.”

The Fourth Amendment guarantees all people in this nation protection against “unreasonable searches and seizures”, requires a showing of particular suspicion for the issuance of a warrant, mandates that warrants be limited in scope. Even in cases where searches don’t require a warrant, our nation’s Supreme Court has interpreted the Fourth Amendment as requiring “individualized suspicion” for that search to be carried out, and has denounced “suspicionless searches”. These massive data seizures on ordinary individuals, persons not suspected of any particularized criminal conduct, constitutes a direct assault upon the Fourth Amendment, and they are made all the more disturbing by the complicity of our nation’s most powerful and profitable tech companies in the secret violation of their customers’ trust. Twitter deserves commendation for standing against this culture of corruption and secrecy.


Dear Dick Costolo,

I would like to thank you and your company for your defense of your users’ privacy and opposition to invalid government requests. In particular, thank you for refusing to cooperate with the NSA’s secretive PRISM program, which is purported to record all online activities of all Americans. It is heartening to see a tech company stand up to the United States government on behalf of the American people, and we applaud you for it. I am writing to express my support and to encourage you to stand strong against future requests to turn over the personal information of your service’s users.

Technology promises to foster communication, to aid in the quest for knowledge, and to lead to more a more open, democratic society. But the very technologies which could, if used for good, elevate the human spirit and bring about a better world could just as easily bolster the power of the already mighty, and lead to a society of surveillance and oppression. It is saddening to learn that some of the largest and most trusted companies in the tech sector—Yahoo, Google, Microsoft, Apple—have complied with a program that treats all Americans as if they were guilty until proven innocent, criminal suspects by their mere existence. I hope that you will continue to stand for your users’ rights, and for the good in technology, and urge your colleagues in the tech sector to do the same.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit:  Paul Snelling via Flickr

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