Twitter complied with half of all the UK government’s requests to access users' accounts this year.

The UK requested access to 299 accounts between January and June 2015. Twitter said that it had given access to personal information for 52 percent of these requests.

The social network said the requests were made “typically” in connection with criminal investigations, and that affected users would be made aware of requests. However, if a government agency, like a police force, prohibits alerting the user, they will never know.

It will refuse a request when an exact Tweet or Twitter account was not specified, and will ask for further clarification from requests that are “overly broad.” Occasionally, it found that users challenged the requests after notification.

So what data does Twitter keep?

Some real-time information like IP logs may only be stored for a short amount of time, but a lot is automatically collected.

If government agencies ask Twitter to preserve records which could become evidence in legal proceedings, it will keep a snapshot of the account for 90 days. The requestor must include the details of the Twitter account, have a valid official email address and send the request using a law enforcement letterhead.

The requests can be sent to the San Francisco or Dublin HQ. Twitter operates under US and Irish data protection law.

What if I deactivate my account?

Even after deactivating your account there will be a “brief period” in which Twitter can access your account information and Tweets.

Can the UK government see my direct messages?

If there is a valid, legal request made with a warrant then Twitter is obliged to hand over all information, whether it is publicly visible or not.

Why did Twitter decline half the requests?

If there isn’t a warrant in place, the company will weigh up whether there is a legitimate emergency involving danger or death or physical harm.

©Twitter

The amount of requests from government agencies like the police have more than doubled since last year, when 116 requests were made. This is a stark contrast from 2012 when Twitter received just 11.

Turkey, Japan and US government agencies made more requests than the UK.  

This could be due to awareness of an international cyber-bullying phenomenon, and public scrutiny and outrage surrounding abusive Tweets.

Twitter and Facebook are also increasingly reported as core communication tools to recruit jihadists in Britain.

Twitter will comply with non-government requests: Twitter fans can request their own account information too. 

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