Twitter subpoenas: Highlighting the problem with globalized data

Birgitta Jónsdóttir, a member of the Althing – the parliament of Iceland – and a former Wikileaks supporter has apparently been informed by Twitter that the US Department of Justice has demanded that Twitter turns over the stored Twitter data they have regarding her account. This includes all actual tweets as well as some personal information about her. Not surprisingly, she is regarding the subpoena as a breach of privacy since she is not suspected of any crime. While Twitter have chosen to actually inform the targeted person of the existence of the subpoena, there seem to be a rising suspicion that other companies such as Google and Facebook are not as open toward their users. Which of course makes it an even worse privacy break since the persons are not even aware of that their personal information are eventually turned over to a third party, no matter that the third party happens to be a US governmental body.

The main problem here is not only the fact that personal user data aren’t as protected as the users in most case presume it to be, but also the fact that personal data belonging to persons not even in the legal jurisdiction of a country can be submitted to that country’s views of legality when it comes to data protection. In one way, if the process described in this case is deemed legal by US courts, it is perfectly legal. A sovereign state has the full right to have a bad legal protection when it comes to data – so long as it doesn’t go against any potential international treaties and agreement said state has signed of course. The problem however takes on a diffent dimension when personal data given up by persons not residing in or in any way having a connection to said state end up getting their personal information ceded to the authories in that state.

Now, of course there most likely is a clause in the user agreements for both Twitter, Facebook and Google that states something like that the user agrees to having their personal data stored and handled in the USA, and as such being under the jurisdiction of the US legal system. But the real question is how many of the millions of international users who are actually aware of this fact. Data protection and safety are tricky things, since they are so elusive in their geographical attachment.


Hungary’s EU presidency marred by their new media law

As Hungary takes over the EU presidency for the first half of 2011, there remain a controversy over the country’s newly approved media law that will impose a rather strict government body control over both public and private media companies, as well as in theory also applying to the more informal modern forms of media outlets such as blogs. Exactly how this latter part would be feasible is on the other hand questionable. In any case such stringent overseeing by a government authority is bordering to state censorship and it is highly questionable if such a law is in correspondence with the European legal framework on the right to free speech.

Sources (selection of):,

The problem with Swiss nudist hikers

Nudist hikers in Harz, Germany, where hiking in the nude is allowed. Photo: DPA.
Nudist hikers in Harz, Germany, where hiking in the nude is allowed. Photo: DPA.

The Swiss cantonal government of Appenzell Innerrhoden wants a new law in place to cope with the rise in popularity of nudist mountain hiking.

I must admit that until I read this news, I hadn’t even reflected over the possibility that it was something that existed, and definitely not something that apparently has become so prevalent that the canton sees it as a problem. To be perfectly honest, I’m almost as surprised – if not more – to read that it apparently under current Swiss law is perfectly legal. As for the actual question at hand, I don’t know what to say.

Photo: DPA