ACLU backs Twitter's bid to hide user information

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Aden Fine, a senior staff attorney for the ACLU said in a statement that the case "is important because law enforcement around the country is becoming increasingly aggressive in its attempts to obtain information about what people are doing and saying on the Internet."

"People rely on the Internet to express themselves and to live their lives, and the government shouldn’t be able to get this constitutionally protected information without a warrant and without complying with the First Amendment," Fine said.

In its filing on Thursday, the ACLU argued the subpoena infringes Harris's First Amendment right to free speech and that he has the legal standing to challenge it on his own.

"The United States Supreme Court has repeatedly held that individuals whose constitutional rights are implicated by a government subpoena to a third party have standing to challenge the request to attempt to protect their constitutional rights before disclosure of the requested information," the ACLU wrote.

Prosecutors argued in a filing last week that the Fourth Amendment does not protect the tweets because the "defendant has no reasonable expectation of privacy in information that he asked Twitter to publish to what is, after all, the world-wide Web."

The ACLU acknowledged that some of the tweets are public, but said the prosecutors should not have access to Harris's direct messages, deleted tweets or IP address information. The group said information about the IP addresses that Harris used to access Twitter could reveal where he was.

The ACLU pointed to the Supreme Court ruling earlier this year in U.S. v. Jones, which found that tracking a suspect's car with a GPS device qualifies as a search under the Fourth Amendment. The group said gathering IP address information would be a similar "sophisticated tool for mapping an individual’s specific whereabouts over time."

In their filing, the prosecutors noted that the court had already ruled that the subpoena should give them access to the tweets.

"Twitter’s contention that federal law requires a warrant before the content of public Tweets can be turned over is belied by both the law and Twitter’s own corporate policy," the prosecutors wrote.