Police Misconduct Lawsuits Prompts TxtMob Subpoena
The TxtMob technology allows people to contact groups of like-minded folks in a bulletin board way with mobile devices. New York City wants to know who used it in August 2004.
Facing a multitude of police brutality lawsuits stemming from protests around the Republican National Convention in 2004 and law enforcement’s reactions, the City of New York wants TxtMob creator Tad Hirsch to hand over information about the service’s users during the convention. The subpoena comes from a group of 62 lawsuits alleging a variety of infractions by the City.
“I want to reassure all past and present TXTmob users that I take their privacy seriously, and that I am taking what actions I can to protect their civil liberties,” Hirsch said in a statement posted at TxtMox.
The New York Times noted a response from Hirsch’s lawyer, David Rankin, that suggested the request would violate First Amendment free speech protection for people uninvolved with the incidents that spurred lawsuits.
Interestingly enough, the Times goes on to note how reporters used the service to try and keep up with mobs of protesters in order to identify where arrests took place. Hirsch said he believe the police used TxtMob to figure out where the more dynamic protests would take place.
Apparently NYPD knew of TxtMob in advance of the Republican convention, which could be due to its use in Boston during the Democratic National Convention. Protests there were much milder than those surrounding the later Republican event.