Welp, looks like your tweets really aren't protected by law. After months of haggling with the courts, Twitter has finally turned over the protected tweets of Occupy Wall Street protestor Malcolm Harris after his arrest in October.
Had Twitter persisted in its resistance to the court order demanding the tweets, it would have been held in contempt, and fined a substantial amount of money. Additionally, it would have had to make two quarters of financial data public to keep up the fight as well—and it was very much not anxious to do that. So it relented.
Twitter's loss here could set an unfortunate precedent. It had argued that protected tweets represent a reasonable expectation of privacy—the same that's afforded to other forms of communication like mail by the Fourth Amendment. It also argued that Twitter was not the one that should be forced to turn over the data—it should be on Harris to make that available to the courts. Basically, Twitter was saying, "Hey, keep us out of it."
It seems to have lost or given up on both cases. So that means that for future cases like this, investigators can just knock on Twitter's door and ask for protected tweets, with the precedent already set that the information will probably be turned over. Scary thoughts. [Chicago Tribute via Verge, Bloomberg]