Boston DA Tries To Keep Twitter Subpoena Secret, Fails Miserably

Senior Contributor
12.30.11 3 Comments

I live in Boston, and one of the more pathetic aspects of this year has been watching the Boston Police Department spend thousands of dollars to steal a sink and getting called out by their fellow police unions over their handling of Occupy Boston, which they bungled financially on top of it all. Generally it demonstrated that the BPD just are completely out of their element aside from figuring out how to kill Red Sox fans with “less-lethal” weapons.

The BPD’s Keystone Cops routine has, however, hit new heights of comedy: Boston prosecutors are attempting to investigate a crime that oddly nobody has been charged with — one that they refuse to even reveal what it is — and claim that it’s vitally important that Twitter give them all records pertaining to certain users and to certain hashtags. Oh, and they’d like Twitter to do them a solid and keep it all secret

Massachusetts authorities apparently thought that asking nicely would suffice to keep secret their subpoena for information on a Twitter user involved with Occupy Wall Street. They thought wrong.

So when the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office sent its request to Twitter, its subpoena ended up in the inbox of the DA’s target, following a decision by Twitter to share it as part of its privacy policy.

The user in question goes by the handle @p0isAn0N, who last week posted the document in full on Scribd. Dated December 14, the subpoena requests IP address information about the accounts of @p0isAn0N, @OccupyBoston, as well as “Guido Fawkes” and two Twitter hashtags: #BostonPD and #d0xcak3.

At the bottom of the document, a Suffolk county assistant district attorney asked Twitter not to share the request with any of its users, since such an action could “impede the ongoing criminal investigation.” Twitter has since said it did not follow that request due to its privacy policy.

Oh, and now the ACLU is involved, since the DA’s office is trying to violate the anonymity of Twitter users, which is kind of a whole free speech no-no.

The moral of the story? If you’re going to surreptitiously try to collect the names of protesters, guys, just pay Facebook next time.

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