While social media allows us to broadcast all sorts of information about ourselves to the people we want to communicate with, the access that it provides law enforcement has often made people uncomfortable. The idea that the government is monitoring our Twitter feeds or Facebook pages has ominous Big Brother-type connotations to it. For that reason, Twitter is in the habit of notifying users when law enforcement agencies request information on them, unless specifically ordered not to do so. That turned out to be a benefit for a Twitter user going by the name Guido Fawkes (@p0isAn0N), who has been heavily involved in some of the information leaks during the Occupy Boston protests.
It seems that the Suffolk County (Boston) District Attorney sent Twitter a subpoena for “[a]ll available subscriber information, for the account or accounts associated with” the name Guido Fawkes, @p0isAn0n, @OccupyBoston, and the hashtags #BostonPD and #d0xcak3 (what they hope to gain by subpoenaing information on hashtags is unclear). Specifically, they wanted information concerning “IP address logs for account creation and for the period December 8, 2011 to December 13, 2011.” Pursuant to Twitter’s Guidelines for Law Enforcement, they passed the subpoena on to the affected users.
Interestingly, Twitter’s law enforcement guidelines state that they will “notify users of requests for their information prior to disclosure unless we are prohibited from doing so by statute or court order.” Yet the second page of the subpoena says “this office asks that you not disclose the existence of this request to the subscriber as disclosure could impede the ongoing criminal investigation.” It is not clear whether Twitter deliberately or accidentally ignored this request when forwarding the subpoena on.
Meanwhile, the owner of the @p0isAn0N Twitter account (whose name, of course, is not actually Guido Fawkes) posted last week that he had received the subpoena from Twitter...
The next day he tweeted that a lawyer from the Massachusetts ACLU had agreed to take the case.
He later tweeted that his attorney had moved to quash the subpoena. This case should be worth keeping an eye on. We’ll post more as it develops.