US Attorneys Fishing For Tons Of Info On Anonymous Commenters

from the isn't-that-a-bit-much? dept

Michael Scott points us to the fact that US Attorneys have requested data on anonymous commenters who commented on an article in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. From the description, it sounds like the feds are fishing for a lot more than they should be allowed to get. The subpoena requested:
"full name, date of birth, physical address, gender, ZIP code, password prompts, security questions, telephone numbers and other identifiers ... the IP address," of everyone who commented
Seem a bit excessive? It's not entirely clear what the feds are fishing for, but one indicator? Some of the comments were quite critical of (you guessed it) a federal prosecutor. As Thomas Mitchell, the editor of the Review-Journal notes:
These comment posters are not reporters; they have no shield law protection, especially since Congress has yet to pass the pending federal shield law. A grand jury can subpoena just about anyone for any reason.

But what time, effort and tax-funded expenses are being expended by the U.S. attorney's office to track down a bunch of posturing blowhards squandering their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination?

....

What the prosecutors don't appear to understand is that we don't have most of what they are seeking. We don't require registration. A person could use a fictitious name and e-mail address, and most do. We have no addresses or phone numbers.

To add prior restraint to the chilling effect of the sweeping subpoena, we were warned: "You have no obligation of secrecy concerning this subpoena; however, any such disclosure could obstruct and impede an ongoing criminal investigation. ..."
We've been seeing a lot of similar stories lately -- with gov't officials getting upset at what's being said about them online, and pushing the (or crossing) the boundaries of the law in order to try to find out who is behind those comments.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Jun 11th, 2009 @ 4:51pm

    Oh, this could be fun...

    Frak the federal prosecuters.

    --Barack H. Obama, Esq.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    Anonymouse, Jun 11th, 2009 @ 4:58pm

    Subpoena this...

    Also -- seconding what Mr. Obama said above.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 11th, 2009 @ 5:09pm

    You don't seem to have a problem identifying anonymous commenters here if they don't agree with you.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    Bruce Springz Teen, Jun 11th, 2009 @ 5:21pm

    Why not?

    Nobody wants to comment on this story?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    twowords, Jun 11th, 2009 @ 5:39pm

    goverment bites

    I got two words for them...actually more and if they can not handle critics that post then they need to stop trying to be so politicaly correct and join the real world and grow up and get out of kindergarten and do their jobs and do them by the law and not by politics.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 11th, 2009 @ 5:50pm

    There's a reason why I post as anonymous coward... and you may now be able to deduce that reason... :-b

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    identicon
    teknosapien, Jun 11th, 2009 @ 5:58pm

    Unless it Liable

    I think this is tending towards the an infringement on the right of free speech

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 11th, 2009 @ 6:03pm

    I don't know what was said to piss these people off but from what I understand in this country is that is that we can say what ever we want as long as it's no dangerous to the public or deflimation of character. That is unless we tossed the first amendment out the door.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    identicon
    1DandyTroll, Jun 11th, 2009 @ 6:07pm

    There are no shield laws, no more

    'These comment posters are not reporters; they have no shield law protection, especially since Congress has yet to pass the pending federal shield law.'

    Oh, what fools people are, thinking the constitution actually adhered to communicating via the Internet, and thus function as a shield law.

    Ah, but no, who can imagined a liberal constitution functioning as a sheild law for free speech, in a communist country?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    Bettawrekonize, Jun 11th, 2009 @ 6:18pm

    Re: Why not?

    We're too afraid.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 11th, 2009 @ 6:20pm

    Re:

    I do not recall an ac having their full name, date of birth, physical address, gender, ZIP code, password prompts, security questions, telephone numbers exposed here.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    Bettawrekonize, Jun 11th, 2009 @ 6:27pm

    Actually, I'm willing to bet that a competent entity with enough access (ie: our government) could figure out the residence of anonymous posters based on the hostmask and time of post if they really wanted to.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 11th, 2009 @ 6:28pm

    Re:

    Systems like Tor might obfuscate the issue though but most users probably don't use Tor and such.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 11th, 2009 @ 6:43pm

    so it is like in jay and silent bob trike back.their to stupid to relize they can't stop it

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    identicon
    Kevin Browning, Jun 11th, 2009 @ 6:48pm

    I'll gladly tell these prosecutors to their faces what I think of them. Sorry, asshats, but you have no legal basis to charge me with anything for stating my opinion, learned or not, about how incompetent you are. And yes, that's my real name and email.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 11th, 2009 @ 6:54pm

    This is the case where the swat team destroyed security cameras in an attempt to hide their actions. They also destroyed the footage but they didn't realize that there was a backup recording the event and that backup held up in court.

    http://www.reviewjournal.com/lvrj_home/2007/Mar-21-Wed-2007/news/13248652.html

    Here is the video footage.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2VJ3son-ha8

    Conspiracies do happen. In this specific situation they got caught but the fact that it has gone so far in this video suggests that these people have done this before.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    anonymous coward, Jun 11th, 2009 @ 8:31pm

    Re: Oh, this could be fun...

    What he said, he is the president after all. ;)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    inc, Jun 11th, 2009 @ 8:58pm

    Re:

    That's awesome. Can we use RICO against the RIAA?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 11th, 2009 @ 9:09pm

    Re: Re:

    Systems like Tor might obfuscate the issue though but most users probably don't use Tor and such.

    Some of us do.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 11th, 2009 @ 9:28pm

    What is the official policy of techdirt on this?

    Mike,

    So what is the official policy of techdirt on this? Do you store/keep IP logs? Will you turn them over if asked?

    What about registered accounts? Will you turn that info over?

    Please let us all know where you stand so we can know where we stand.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 11th, 2009 @ 10:39pm

    Mike, you have a typo. That's *w*ishing, not *f*ishing :)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    identicon
    Dan, Jun 11th, 2009 @ 11:23pm

    I appreciate that this site allows anon comments for precisely this reason, registration WILL at some point be co-opted and misused, legally or illegally. A note to some sites, notably wired.com, when you require registration your comment count drops precipitously and commentators self censor their real response. If you really want to know what I think drop the registration and I will comment, otherwise your site will become read only and much lower priority. Freedom of speech in the US is on life support. I had fond hopes that Obama's insight into constitutional law might restore erosion of our rights but I am really disappointed in his dismal track record.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 11th, 2009 @ 11:56pm

    Re: What is the official policy of techdirt on this?

    exactly

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 12th, 2009 @ 1:22am

    Re: What is the official policy of techdirt on this?

    What about registered accounts? Will you turn that info over?

    Yeah, I've noticed that Techdirt doesn't seem to have a published privacy policy. I think it's safe to assume that Techdirt builds a dossier on every registered account and will probably turn that over to whoever they want to. Registered = Sucker.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 12th, 2009 @ 2:25am

    Re:

    He wrote it right, It is Fishing, NumbNuT!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    identicon
    Bradley Stewart, Jun 12th, 2009 @ 5:21am

    What are all these people afraid of?

    A friend of mine who buys and sells like a high quality Sanford and Son once told me a story. He said that he went to what is called a box sale. He was speaking with the broker in charge of the sale. He told the broker that he would take this and this and this but he didn't like this and that and he was not interested in purchasing these items. The broker said to him no you don't understand. He said what do you mean? The broker said this is a box sale. You can't choose. You have to take the good with the bad. This is the good. This is the bad. Folks the Internet is a box sale.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    icon
    Dark Helmet (profile), Jun 12th, 2009 @ 6:35am

    Re:

    All you motherf---ers are gonna pay. YOU are the ones who are the ball lickers!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    identicon
    zellamayzao, Jun 12th, 2009 @ 8:38am

    Re: goverment bites

    If they did a good job in their elected position, instead of worrying about all the negative press out there (professional or not) then maybe someone would have a positive thing to say every now and again. Instead they take advantage of all the power they have thinking they can invade people's lives if they say something about them they don't like. Boo Hoo. grow up and do a better job.


    This is America for *insert religious figures name here* sake. We should be able to say whatever we want be it good or bad about the morons running this country, Democrat or Republican. They are no better than us. Let me remind you who put you there....the people you claim to serve and trying to lock up for speaking their minds. This is not China. You shouldn't look to shut out people who speak their minds.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    identicon
    Mark Dyer, Jun 12th, 2009 @ 9:13am

    My name is Mark Dyer

    I live in London.

    I hate the US government. Come and find me you pussies.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    icon
    Mike Masnick (profile), Jun 12th, 2009 @ 11:30am

    Re: What is the official policy of techdirt on this?

    So what is the official policy of techdirt on this? Do you store/keep IP logs? Will you turn them over if asked?

    Our official privacy policy is here:

    https://www.insightcommunity.com/privacy.php

    We will only turn over such info as a last resort if legally required to do so. However, it should be no surprise that we fight any attempts to have us hand over such info (to date, successfully).

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 12th, 2009 @ 12:30pm

    Unless you don't agree with their posts, and then you have no problem posting it here.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
    identicon
    Anonymous12, Jun 12th, 2009 @ 1:05pm

    Anonymous Coward - Jun 12th, 2009 @ 12:30pm
    Unless you don't agree with their posts, and then you have no problem posting it here.



    @AC: I have no problem with identifying (as a theoretical example) someone who is claiming to be a consumer, defending the RIAA, but then who through their IP address (which is identifiable information for the website admin)
    is traced to RIAA headquarters. This of course is only a theoretical example, since you remain cowardly, and refuse to site an ACTUAL or REAL WORLD example, I'll assume your statement is basically total BS. Sound fair? Good. Now STHU.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 12th, 2009 @ 4:10pm

    Re: Re: What is the official policy of techdirt on this?

    Umm, that isn't linked from the Techdirt home or comments pages, so does it apply to Techdirt? If so, then why hide it like that?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34.  
    icon
    Mike Masnick (profile), Jun 12th, 2009 @ 4:19pm

    Re:

    Unless you don't agree with their posts, and then you have no problem posting it here.

    We have never revealed anyone's personal identifying info of any sort. Lying does not help your case.

    At times, we have pointed out that multiple comments were by the same person, or taken reasonable guesses at who someone is (hi Weird Harold!), which that person will often confirm.

    However, we have no information stored to identify anyone directly, so no, you are incorrect.

    Please. Do not lie.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 12th, 2009 @ 4:21pm

    Re:

    blah blah blah...since you remain cowardly...blah blah blah

    Anonymous Pot, meet anonymous Kettle.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 12th, 2009 @ 4:46pm

    Re: Re:

    ...taken reasonable guesses at who someone is (hi Weird Harold!),

    Mike,
    I must have totally missed that one! Link, please?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37.  
    identicon
    Jericho, Jun 14th, 2009 @ 4:19am

    Dear Feddie,

    Enjoy your 46 borrowed cent on the dollar while it last. Us little people out here paying the other 54 cents of your paycheck are smiling - just smiling.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38.  
    identicon
    sam adams, Jun 15th, 2009 @ 9:36am

    Commie Bastards

    Bring it on!

    We will not stand by and see the U.S. turned into a third world dictatorship.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39.  
    identicon
    r.cook, Jun 15th, 2009 @ 11:03am

    Re: My name is Mark Dyer

    Mark Dyer:
    ( I live in London.I hate the US government.Come and find me you pussies.)

    We don't care If you like the U.S.or Not.We kick'd your sorry ass out of OUR country over 200yrs ago.So who is the Pussy??? Why would I waste my time looking for a Socialist?
    I'm trying to send more of them from here to London.We could give you Obama to replace Brown.By the way,WE wand the DVD's Back that Obama gave your Queen!!!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  40.  
    identicon
    pavan, Nov 5th, 2009 @ 12:25am

    Attorneys who are offering lower cost "unbundled legal services" which consist of legal forms together with legal advice for a fixed fee would not be motivated to provide 30 minutes of free advice. Many of these firms can charge a small fee for this legal advice. lawyers

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  41.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 14th, 2010 @ 8:30pm

    To catch this fish they need the best fishing gear which is quite technical in this case

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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