Twitter’s recent transparency report is an encouraging, and very public, call to arms. In much the same way Martin Luther nailed his ninety-five theses to the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church; Twitter predicates its report by boldly asserting that, in the wake of Snowden and the NSA, the US government is limiting freedom of speech and still not disclosing the full picture.
The robust report positions Twitter as being firmly committed to free expression beyond international borders, whilst taking a decidedly public stand in support of global government surveillance reform and increased transparency.
Looking at the statistics over the last two years, Twitter has seen a 66% increase in requests for account information. Such requests came from more than 45 countries but unsurprisingly the US continues to make the lion’s share; forming well over half (59%) of all requests received. Baiting the US Government to allow greater transparency, Twitter claims it is considering legal options against the Department of Justice to defend its citizens’ First Amendment rights.
If anything, the report highlights the contrast in attitudes towards respecting data privacy between certain governments and the public. Large Internet companies like Twitter are custodians of huge amounts of personal and potentially sensitive data, and unless more take a similar stance they are complicit in propagating an environment of secrecy and breach of trust.
The industry has a responsibility to uphold the ideals of a free and open Web, as originally set out by Tim Berners-Lee. This will require a united effort to ensure that customer and user needs are given the highest priority in order to regain trust or we run the risk of forever damaging the greatest single innovation in communication known to man.