Q&A with Jon Epstein
Use of popular social media
may be used against you as well
Q: Who legally owns the content we post on Twitter?
A: Last month, a New York judge ruled Twitter owned the content. Prosecutors subpoenaed all tweets made by an alleged organizer of Occupy Wall Street. The defendant opposed the subpoena and the judge rejected his argument because he (the judge) determined Twitter's policy indicated it (not the user) owned the tweets and had the right to distribute them. Twitter subsequently changed its terms of service to make it clear that users own their content.
Q: Are our deleted tweets housed somewhere, and who can access them?
A: Yes. In most circumstances, old or deleted tweets are still accessible (either via Twitter or other archives). In the Occupy Wall Street case, Twitter also opposed the subpoena; however, the judge ruled, “if you post a tweet, just like if you scream out the window, there is no reasonable expectation of privacy,” and he ordered the microblogging site to produce certain tweets even if they were deleted. The ruling might have been different if the user limited access to a few friends or followers.