Federal Judge Won't Stay Subpoena for Wikileaks Users' Twitter Accounts

A federal judge in Virginia has refused to stay a federal subpoena issued to Twitter for three user accounts associated with Wikileaks. The opinion is here.

Birgitta Jonsdottir, Jacob Appelbaum and Rop Gonggrijp had asked the Court to stay the subpoena pending an appeals court challenge. A federal magistrate judge upheld the subpoenas in November.

The [Magistrate]Judge rejected the users' claims under the First Amendment and Fourth Amendment as well as their other arguments. She says there is no right of privacy in your IP address if you turn it over to a third party like Twitter. Wikileaks has said in the past it believes similar subpoenas went out to Google and Facebook.

The Government sought the subpoenas in connection with its grand jury investigation into Wikileaks. You can read the subpoena here. The judge that issued Wednesday's opinion said the three had little chance of prevailing in the appellate court. [More...]

There are a lot of excellent briefs filed in the case on the issue of the ordering Twitter to turn over the records under 18 U.S.C. 2703(d) (the Stored Records Communication Act) and on unsealing the documents and pleadings. If you'd like to read them, and have a PACER account, it's case number 1:11-dm-00003-TCB.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the ACLU are also involved, representing Birgitta Jonsdottir, who is a member of the Icelandic Parliament. She reportedly "assisted with WikiLeaks' release of a classified U.S. military video."

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    Hand Over ?? (none / 0) (#1)
    by ScottW714 on Fri Jan 06, 2012 at 03:11:41 PM EST
    She says there is no right of privacy in your IP address if you turn it over to a third party like Twitter.

    Does Twitter require you to disclose your IP address or are they capturing it ?  

    I have never voluntarily handed my IP address to anyone beyond tech support.  But I know they can record it, occasionally a commercial website will post it letting me know, they know, who I am.

    Does TL record our IP addresses ?

    I think (none / 0) (#2)
    by nyjets on Fri Jan 06, 2012 at 03:27:49 PM EST
    Every email you send out, every transaction you make on the internet (posts, online payments, etc) can be traced to whatever computer you are using. Everytime you send an email or carry out a transaction, the computers IP address and MAC address is sent. (And understand that MAC addresses are almost as unique as a fingerprint.) There are ways of spoofing the IP address and MAC address but I do not know how to do that.
    IOW, it is almost impossible to surf the internet and send email without giving out your IP address.
    So when you send an email or make a payment, the computer on the other side can easily capture the IP address or MAC address.

    I hate to say it, but privacy and the internet are almost mutually exclusive. It is why I will never use facebook.


    I Understand All of That... (none / 0) (#3)
    by ScottW714 on Fri Jan 06, 2012 at 03:52:11 PM EST
    ... but the judge specifically said "turn over".  Which in my mind is an voluntary act, like giving out your phone number.  Recording it, like caller ID, is in this judges mind, turning it over ?

    She specifically states that "if you turn it over", or maybe the summary isn't what the judge said.  Or as asked above, you have to give it to Twitter.


    very good question (none / 0) (#4)
    by nyjets on Fri Jan 06, 2012 at 04:05:49 PM EST
    I think the way computers work, giving out your IP address when you surf the web is an involuntary act. You the user have no choice in the matter. Either you give up your IP address or you can't surf web.
    The best you can do is spoof your IP address.

    I have been involved (none / 0) (#5)
    by Zorba on Fri Jan 06, 2012 at 06:10:36 PM EST
    in other websites in an administrative capacity, and I don't know how TL works, but, yes, in most of them, they can see your IP address.  Which may or may not mean a whole heck of a lot.  You can easily change your IP address (Google it- I'm paranoid and don't wan to provide the URL's).  You can also get a proxy server (again, Google it).

    However (none / 0) (#6)
    by nyjets on Fri Jan 06, 2012 at 07:25:33 PM EST
    It is hard to change your mac address and I think other sites can see that. And a Mac Address is essentially a fingerpint for a computer.

    The entire Internet functionality is based (none / 0) (#7)
    by BTAL on Fri Jan 06, 2012 at 09:11:32 PM EST
    on IP addresses offered/presented and stored.  That is the core of how traffic moves.  If your IP is not presented for any connection request (web page view, email send/receive, etc) you will never do anything on the net.  Your system has to offer its IP so the requested service knows where to return the information.  Same applies to all the routers and switches those requests & responses transit.

    So in short, yes you do offer up your IP address.


    Yes, you do (none / 0) (#10)
    by Zorba on Sat Jan 07, 2012 at 01:09:07 PM EST
    But there are those people who have figured this out and use proxy servers/anonymizers.  Not very common, but it's done.  I would never bother to try to do so- if the government is determined to spy on me, I wouldn't be at all happy about it, but I figure they'll find a way to do so, anyway.  We have to depend upon the fact that there is just such an overwhelming volume of online traffic, they can't possibly keep up with it all.  Plus the fact that, presumably, the overwhelming majority of us aren't doing anything that would particularly interest the government.

    Proxy servers are a pain to implement (none / 0) (#11)
    by BTAL on Sat Jan 07, 2012 at 02:06:10 PM EST
    with no true guarantee that a) they are reliable b) are honest "brokers" c) can't be broken/tracked if really needed.

    Even with all the IP traffic, you would be surprised just how easy it is to track an individual if needed.  For example, a few simple router rules coupled with your point of entry via your ISP is all it takes.


    Sure, but most of us (none / 0) (#12)
    by Zorba on Sat Jan 07, 2012 at 02:12:01 PM EST
    have to depend upon the fact that our lives are so boring, the feds would not want to track us.  I worry more about having my financial information stolen than I do about the government tracking my every email or internet post.  Not that I'm happy about the government tracking anyone, mind you, without due cause and a legitimate search warrant, but there's little I can do about that (except support the ACLU, and write my representatives).

    Yup, (5.00 / 0) (#13)
    by NYShooter on Sat Jan 07, 2012 at 07:10:33 PM EST
    (with a shrug) I agree, your opinion mirrors my own.

    Keeping your head down, and hoping your insignificance will protect you is probably the right way to go.


    Sure (none / 0) (#9)
    by jbindc on Sat Jan 07, 2012 at 11:47:15 AM EST
    That's how TL tells whose been banned, who is spamming, etc. - by the IP address.