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Twitter Users Can’t Protect Data From WikiLeaks Probe

(CN) - A federal judge has refused to back down from his finding that Twitter should give the government information about subscribers with alleged ties to WikiLeaks.

In 2010 WikiLeaks disseminated a series of cables containing classified diplomatic analysis from world leaders, dating back as far as December 1966.

The leak, known as Cablegate, resulted in the government's criminal investigation of WikiLeaks' leader, Julian Assange, and others who may have helped leak classified documents through the WikiLeaks website.

As part of its investigation, the government wanted Twitter to release account information about several individuals associated with Wikileaks, including Assange and an alleged source in the U.S. Navy, Bradley Manning. The three other alleged Wikileaks backers implicated by the investigation were Birgitta Jonsdottir, a member of the Icelandic parliament; Jacob Appelbaum, a computer security researcher who represented WikiLeaks at a 2010 hackers conference in New York; and Rop Gonggrijp, a Dutch activist and computer security expert.

In December 2010, U.S. Magistrate Judge Theresa Buchanan ordered Twitter to disclose its records of these five suspects.

Jonsdottir, Appelbaum and Gonggrijp objected, but U.S. District Judge Liam O'Grady refused to quash Buchanan's order in November 2011.

Earlier this month, O'Grady refused to stay his November order or to block Buchanan's decision.

"The court is not convinced that petitioners would suffer irreparable injury from denial of a stay," O'Grady wrote on Jan. 4. "The information at issue was collected by Twitter, Inc. from petitioners' use of the Twitter service, so the information has already been disclosed to at least one third party."

O'Grady also based his decision on the interest of avoiding additional delay. "Litigation of these issues has already denied the government lawful access to potential evidence for more than a year," he wrote. "The public interest therefore weighs strongly against further delay."

The Twitter users claimed that they had a reasonable expectation of privacy to information collected from their Internet Protocol addresses, but O'Grady disagreed. "Every Court of Appeals to have addressed the first question has determined that there is no reasonable expectation of privacy in IP addressing information," he wrote.

He similarly rejected a challenge to Buchanan's discretion to require a warrant based on probable cause under the Stored Communications Act.

"If petitioners do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in IP addressing information, there would be no reason to require a warrant based on probable cause or to complain that the Twitter order was constitutionally overbroad," O'Grady wrote

"The most important factor, petitioners' likelihood of success on appeal, weighs strongly against a stay," he concluded, noting that the challengers failed to make a "strong showing" of success on appeal.

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