Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Feds want to know: Just who are your readers?

The Electronic Frontier Foundation reports that, on January 30 of this year, the Justice Department not only demanded to know who was reading the IndyMedia alternative news site, but also forbade the site to publicize the demand.
[T]he government was asking for the IP address of every one of indymedia.us's thousands of visitors on that date — the IP address of every person who read any news story on the entire site. Not only did this request threaten every indymedia.us visitor's First Amendment right to read the news anonymously (particularly considering that the government could easily obtain the name and address associated with each IP address via subpoenas to the ISPs that control those IP blocks), it plainly violated the SCA's restrictions on what types of data the government could obtain using a subpoena. The subpoena was also patently overbroad, a clear fishing expedition: there's no way that the identity of every Indymedia reader of every Indymedia story was relevant to the crime being investigated by the grand jury in Indiana, whatever that crime may be. ...

... without any legal authority to back up their purported gag demand, the government ordered Ms. Clair not to reveal the existence of the subpoena, a subpoena that as already described was patently overbroad and invalid under the SCA.
Forewarned by an earlier Justice Department inquiry about where to send a subpoena, the EFF responded and the subpoena was subsequently withdrawn. The gag order  was dropped by default after the feds failed to respond to a legal challenge..

Indymedia wasn't prepared to obey the order anyway. Following EFF's advice to online service providers, the publication deliberately refuses to keep the sort of information the government wanted.

But not all online publications are so careful.

In the end, nobody's privacy was violated, but only because IndyMedia was willing and able to fight, and had the backing of a civil liberties organization. Faced with stubborn opposition and sophisticated legal resources, the government backed down.

This time.

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home