Friday, March 11, 2011

twitter in the shitter

it seems that for the popular microblogging site twitter, you just can't win.

in back-to-back wire service stories out tonight, twitter is getting spanked by the US feds both for being to secretive and not secret enough. it's almost enough to cause motion sickness.

from bloomberg comes news that a federal judge here in the government's backyard (alexandria, va.) has sided with the government's contention that twitter must release account data of three people targeted in the witch hunt against wikileaks.

in affirming the earlier decision, "[U.S. Magistrate Judge Theresa] Buchanan on Dec. 14 ordered Twitter to give the government records and information related to the accounts of several identified individuals and anyone else linked to Assange. Prosecutors asked for subscriber names, contact information, billing records, user activity, Internet Protocol addresses and source and destination e-mail addresses."

the judge also rejected arguments that the government should be compelled to  unseal all records in the court file related to prosecutors’ efforts to get information from Twitter and any other companies." tough luck, guys.

on the other hand, the federal trade commission came down hard on twitter for making it too easy for hackers to guess administrative passwords on the site, allowing the hackers to make posts impersonating president obambi, and well as former CNN presenter rick sanchez.

 "i am high on crack right now might not be coming into work today," someone posted under sanchez' screen name. at least they had a better sense of humor than the FTC.

the PCMag story on this tempest in a shit-pot went on to explain, "Twitter is banned for the next 20 years from misleading consumers about the extent to which it protects the security and privacy of non-public information, the FTC said. Twitter must also establish a comprehensive information security program, which will be assessed by an independent third party every other year for the next 10 years."

twenty years is a long time in the dot-com biz, and it's almost unfathomable that someone misusing 140 characters could motivate the government regulatory apparatus to come crashing down with all its weight on twitter over the actions of some low-level moron.

this is all, however, quite unexceptional in today's america. on the one hand, twitter gets reamed  because the company "deceived consumers and put their privacy at risk by failing to safeguard their personal information," the FTC said.

at the same time, when twitter takes responsibility to safeguard its users' private usage information, the government is all over its ass about it: disclose, and don't tell anybody! and that last is the clincher: the entire wikileaks imbroglio is about unreasonable, unnecessary government secrecy -- a betrayal of the values of openness and transparency that are at the core of the US system of government.

the conspiracy that should be investigated is the one that runs a shadow government that isn't under the law -- it operates by decree, and serves the interests of its wealthy patrons instead of the public whose assent legitimizes its very existence. this government, to protect its own "privacy," doesn't mind playing with the lives of those few brave souls who chose to expose rather than abet the grotesque machinations of a rogue regime.

i don't use twitter -- never have even used the site. just like everything else in "cyberspace," the government demands unfettered access to everyone else's secrets, while jealously guarding its own.

alas, to the american public, the privacy of the twitter password is probably of greater importance than the openness of their government, and the nightly humiliation of bradley manning might seem like just a frat-boy prank, compared with aiding the "enemy" whose identity is never revealed.

if people were to discover exactly who that unnamed enemy is, they might be very surprised.

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