Twitter has seen the number of government user data requests rise over the last two years as the social media company’s seen a steady increase in the number of users. With site growth, however, comes a slowdown in the speed of processed user data requests – particularly considering the US Government’s user data requests that keep rising and rising each year.
In the first half of this year, Twitter’s seen a 46% increase in user data requests from 2013: the majority of these have come from the US (1,257), followed by Japan (192) and Saudi Arabia (189). Due to the large increase in user data requests, Twitter’s talking to the Department of Justice (DOJ) in an effort to have more transparency about what user data the Federal Government wants when it makes requests about Twitter users.
Twitter values the privacy of its users and wants to be in a position where it’s greater ability to inform Twitter users when a government (not just the US) wants the user’s personal data on the social media network. With so many requests (anywhere from 250 to 1,000) that’re often vague, Twitter’s left having to submit lots of data to requesting governments without knowing the exact nature of what it is a government wants to know or is looking for.
Twitter also wants a reduction in the number of requests it must submit at one time. The current user rate is between 250 and 1,000, but Twitter wants “the freedom to provide that information in much smaller ranges,” the company said in talks with the DOJ.
In the wake of Eric Snowden’s fugitive lifestyle and the NSA’s “hot seat” position with regard to the American people, Twitter finds itself caught between a rock and a hard place. The reality is that Twitter has the user data it does because its users have decided to hand that data over to the social network.
The downside of it all is that, now that Twitter’s stored the user data it has, worldwide governments now believe that they’ve a right to access that user data (for whatever reason, or no reason at all).
Twitter realizes that it must share its user data with governments when they request it, but it also wants to put some small power back in the hands of the people. At least, with the new precision request by Twitter to submit user data in smaller batches, Twitter will get better at alerting its users of government requests – and perhaps worldwide governments (the US in particular) will stop making so many demands.
We’re at a loss as to what exactly worldwide governments value about user data at Twitter, Google, Facebook, Pinterest, and other social networks that would be of use to those same governments.