FBI request for Twitter account data beyond legal guidelines

The FBI appeared to go beyond the scope of existing legal guidance in seeking certain kinds of internet records from Twitter as recently as last year, legal experts said, citing two warrantless surveillance orders the social media company published on Friday.

Twitter said its disclosures were the first time the company had been allowed to publicly reveal the secretive orders, which were delivered with gag orders when they were issued in 2015 and 2016. Their publication follows similar disclosures in recent months by other major internet companies, including Alphabet’s Google and Yahoo.

Each of the two new orders, known as national security letters (NSLs), specifically request a type of data known as electronic communication transaction records, which can include some email header data and browsing history, among other information.

In doing so, the orders bolster the belief among privacy advocates that the FBI has routinely used NSLs to seek internet records beyond the limitations set down in a 2008 Justice Department legal memo, which concluded such orders should be constrained to phone billing records.

The FBI did not immediately respond to a request for comment. An FBI inspector general report from 2014 indicated that it disagreed with the memo’s guidance.

In a blog post announcing the two NSL disclosures, Twitter said it did not hand over all the information the FBI requested.

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