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Is Twitter misleading its users on Data Protection?

Posted by on April 24, 2015.

Recently I wrote an article about Amazon and other companies opening European Datacentres in an attempt to mitigate concerns over mass surveillance by the NSA and other intelligence agencies.  The general point is that because these companies are US owned, they are still vulnerable to US law irrespective of where they physically host and process data – an issue which is clearly illustrated by the case involving Microsoft over email hosted in Ireland.

Now it seems Twitter Inc. have jumped on the band wagon but are doing so in a slightly different way in what can only be seen as a blatant attempt to mislead its users.  In 2011 Twitter International Company was registered in Ireland and according to documents filed with the Irish authorities it is owned by T.I. Group V LLC (999 shares) and T.I. Partnership III GP (1 share) which are both Delaware registered companies owned by Twitter Inc.

Twitter are currently all over the press with claims that all non US accounts will now be processed by Twitter International Company in Ireland and therefore will be protected under European Data Protection laws – but given that Twitter International Company is wholly owned by entities in the United States (ultimately Twitter Inc. when you get to the end of the chain) everything they own (including all business records and data) is vulnerable to US surveillance under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and PATRIOT Act – under which they can be forced to hand over any “tangible things” on non-US entities – that is you, me and every other non-US Twitter user.

Twitter obviously know this – they have a team of lawyers and experience of such legal instruments (as can be seen from their transparency reports), so the fact that they are making statements of this nature relating to non-US users is misleading at best.

Now whereas Twitter Inc. do not claim that this move protects your data from US surveillance – it is clear that the press release is seeking to mitigate the issue of US surveillance just as Amazon and Microsoft have done.

Don’t be misled by the headlines – your data is not safe from US surveillance laws just because it is being processed by Twitter International Company in Ireland and it is shockingly bad reporting by the press to suggest that it is.

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Submitted in: Alexander Hanff, Expert Views, News_privacy, News_surveillance, Security, Social Media | Tags: , , , , , ,