Secret subpoena aimed at Twitter user not so secret anymore

Massachusetts authorities subpoenaed Twitter for information on an Occupy Wall Street figure, but ran afoul of Twitter's own privacy policy.

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.

"We can't comment on any specific order or request," Twitter spokesperson Matt Graves told ReadWriteWeb in a statement about the matter. "However, to help users protect their rights, it is our policy to notify our users about law enforcement and governmental requests for their information, unless we are prevented by law from doing so."

In a statement issued alongside the posting of the subpoena, @p0isAn0N wrote: "subpoenas will not shake me. So do whatever you think you can to try and stop Anonymous, but you will learn fast. One of us is not nearly as harsh as all of us. You cannot arrest an idea. You cannot subpoena a hashtag."

It remains unclear whether Twitter provided the Suffolk D.A.'s office with the IP addresses from the accounts. The company, however, has done that in the past, such as last month when it complied with a grand jury probe by the Department of Justice seeking information about account owners allegedly tied to the creation and distribution of documents shared on Wikileaks.

 

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