Court Dumps Hastily-Granted Restraining Order, Says MuckRock Can Publish Smart Meter Documents

from the prior-restraint-much? dept

It took a little less than a week, but the EFF, with the invaluable assistance of Venkat Balasubramani of FOCAL PLLC, has persuaded a Washington state judge to strike down the temporary restraining order against MuckRock he hastily granted back on May 27th.

Landis+Gyr, a multinational corporation owned by Toshiba, recently secured a contract to upgrade Seattle's "dumb" meters to smart meters. Privacy activist Phil Mocek requested information on the city's smart meter plan through MuckRock and was handed two Landis+Gyr documents in unredacted form by the city.

These documents worth suing over spent a month uploaded to MuckRock before Landis+Gyr took notice. Once it had secured the city contract, L+G then demanded -- via a request for a temporary restraining order -- that MuckRock take the documents down, turn over info on site users who may have seen/downloaded them, and somehow help L+G shove its smart meter genie back into the bottle.

Fortunately, the judge has now struck down the restraining order he issued earlier in the week.

Agreeing with EFF, King County Superior Court Judge William Downing ruled that the previous order amounted to a prior restraint on speech that violated the First Amendment, and rescinded it along with denying plaintiffs’ request to extend it.

Not that Landis+Gyr didn't try to keep its restraining order alive -- despite openly acknowledging that one of the two documents contained nothing worth withholding. In its final attempt to salvage its request, L+G claimed that an internet full of evildoers now has access to sensitive information that could place citizens in danger.

Defendants knowingly posted Landis+Gyr’s protected information on its publicly-accessible website, where Landis+Gyr’s competitors, as well as hackers and saboteurs, had access to the information. In fact, internet traffic surrounding the disclosure reveals the danger caused by Defendants’ refusal to remove the information. See Second Supplemental Declaration of Eric Lee Christensen in Support of Motion for Preliminary Injunction, ¶¶ 2, Exhs. A. (“I read all your secret information, you [expletives deleted]”), ¶ 4, Exh. C, p. 8 (“visit the link below to download disputed documents”).

Without access to the exhibits, I can only assume the deleted expletives were "censorious asshats" and that "visit the link below to download disputed documents" is internet code for "seize the means of production, starting with the power grid."

Landis+Gyr's fears of terrorism are overblown, if these are the best pull quotes it could find to illustrate its "hackers n' saboteurs" theory. It may be that its trade secret claims are more based in reality, but that still doesn't explain its attempt to silence a third-party FOIA clearinghouse for doing nothing more than publishing documents handed to it by a government body.


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 6 Jun 2016 @ 3:39am

    But hey they got it on the record now.
    See when their "security" on these devices is found to be lacking and someone pulls off a major hack of them... it won't be their fault.
    It will be the fault of people who let the genie out of the bottle and no one should sue the corporation.
    No one should point out that someone with an iota of intelligence saw the publicly available documents and tried to alert the corporation to the holes the hack ended up using.
    The corporation will use the standard PR face saving action of blaming terrorists & super cyber hacker warriors for the issues rather than the default password being the measurements of the CEO's secretary.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 6 Jun 2016 @ 7:36am

      Re:

      > See when their "security" on these devices is found to be lacking and someone pulls off a major hack of them... it won't be their fault.

      ... because nothing - down to passcodes and salts - can be changed, even in the face of terrorists!

      Oh, wait... that would be a significant flaw in our design, wouldn't it? Better not bring that up, then...

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 6 Jun 2016 @ 7:59am

        Re: Re:

        Oh, it's not that bad. The passcode and salts can all be changed.

        They'll just have to reboot Seattle to do it.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 6 Jun 2016 @ 7:58am

      Re:

      "The corporation will use the standard PR face saving action of blaming terrorists & super cyber hacker warriors for the issues rather than the default password being the measurements of the CEO's secretary."

      Well, it was about time for the CEO to change his secretary, anyway.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Jun 2016 @ 3:51am

    L+G claimed an internet full of evildoers now has access to sensitive information that could place citizens in danger

    Translation:
    Our security on our meters sucks big time.

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

  • icon
    Stan (profile), 6 Jun 2016 @ 4:01am

    “I read all your secret information, you [expletives deleted]"

    TRANSLATION: ""All your base are belong to us."

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

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 6 Jun 2016 @ 4:19am

    Taking lessons from the Erdogan School of Thin-Skin I see

    See Second Supplemental Declaration of Eric Lee Christensen in Support of Motion for Preliminary Injunction, ¶¶ 2, Exhs. A. (“I read all your secret information, you [expletives deleted]”), ¶ 4, Exh. C, p. 8 (“visit the link below to download disputed documents”).

    So two documents, documents that were so insanely secret and valuable that they they handed them to the city are reason enough to claim massive breach of security and a threat to the public, because someone commented about how they read them, and another person had a link up for anyone to download them.

    Somehow I can't help but think that they might be exaggerating just a titch about how damaging having those documents available are to the public, unless of course this is their way of admitting that they were so grossly incompetent that they handed over highly valuable documents that would allow anyone with access to them to do all sorts of not-nice things to the 'smart' meters they planned to sell to the city, where any number of people had access to them.

    Dishonesty or gross incompetence, which shall it be?

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

    • icon
      Dan (profile), 6 Jun 2016 @ 5:37am

      Re: Taking lessons from the Erdogan School of Thin-Skin I see

      documents that were so insanely secret and valuable that they they handed them to the city

      It's entirely plausible that the documents were provided under a non-disclosure agreement, and that L+G has legitimate reasons to want them to not be public. It's similarly plausible that the city was wrong to release them. The course L+G is pursuing is wrong (not to mention simply impossible), but that doesn't mean they're without a legitimate reason to be upset.

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

      • icon
        Nilt (profile), 6 Jun 2016 @ 2:48pm

        Re: Re: Taking lessons from the Erdogan School of Thin-Skin I see

        The issue with that position is Washington State has very clear and very strict guidelines about public disclosure. Once something becomes a contract with a government agency, it is subject to release almost without exception. This is simply a cost of doing business with a government agency in this state and was entirely foreseeable.

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

      • identicon
        Seattleite, 6 Jun 2016 @ 5:14pm

        Re: Re: Taking lessons from the Erdogan School of Thin-Skin I see

        Here's the deal. Responses to RFPs in Washington are public documents unless they contain trade secrets or proprietary information. Responders must acknowledge that they understand that their documents are not subject to redaction or non-disclosure except in very narrow circumstances. This type of response to an RFP rarely rises to such a level.

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

      • icon
        Tanner Andrews (profile), 30 Jul 2016 @ 10:44am

        Re: Re: Taking lessons from the Erdogan School of Thin-Skin I see

        It's entirely plausible that the documents were provided under a non-disclosure agreement, and that L+G has legitimate reasons to want them to not be public

        In such a case, you do not provide them to the public. The government is, at least in theory, merely the face of the public.

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

    • identicon
      I.T. Guy, 6 Jun 2016 @ 5:41am

      Re: Taking lessons from the Erdogan School of Thin-Skin I see

      A little from column A and a lot from column B... Or is that... A lot from column A and a little from column B... most likely A lot from column A and a lot from column B.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Jun 2016 @ 4:20am

    "In fact, internet traffic surrounding the disclosure reveals the danger caused by Defendants’ refusal to remove the information."

    Note this claim leaves unspecified the "danger" to whom.

    I'd say the only "danger" is to what little credibility Landis+Gyr might still have.

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

  • identicon
    I.T. Guy, 6 Jun 2016 @ 5:37am

    If the danger of being hacked is so great... why go with "smart" meters in the first place?

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

    • icon
      Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 6 Jun 2016 @ 8:05am

      Re:

      Because it is the utility that intended to do the hacking, I mean important and beneficial data collection and analysis.

      That everyone else might be able to do the hacking too is what is so upsetting to Landis+Gyr. It was supposed to be a covert sucking up of all your private activities (your going to burn that dildo out if you keep using it so much).

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

  • icon
    wshuff (profile), 6 Jun 2016 @ 5:51am

    Perhaps some enterprising attorney (hurry Hansmeir before you lose your license) could extend civil forfeiture just a little further and have the documents/data seized as the fruits of unspecified, uncharged crime. There seems to be a pretty low threshold for seizing money and other property.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Jun 2016 @ 5:53am

    considering the way 99.9% of judges do exactly what companies insist they do, along with what the government wants as well, i'm surprised this judge didn't throw the constitution under the bus, again! the only thing that seems to have any importance in the USA is ensuring that the people have NO POWER AT ALL OVER ANYTHING ANYMORE!!!!

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 6 Jun 2016 @ 7:57am

      Re:

      A for profit justice system means you have to constantly treat those without the money to pay you off as having no rights.

      Conviently the government has been supporting this idea with ignoring the constitutional rights people are supposed to have.

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

  • icon
    Rich P (profile), 6 Jun 2016 @ 6:10am

    you [expletives deleted]

    The missing phrase is 'corporate lawyers'.

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

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 6 Jun 2016 @ 6:18am

    Re: do you need a proffessional hacker

    Why yes you can stand in court... facing charges for half of the services you claim to offer.

    Begone before someone drops a house on you too...

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Jun 2016 @ 6:59am

    If those two documents could really compromise the security of the smart meters so thoroughly that those documents are all anyone would need, then it wasn't security in the first place, just obscurity.

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

  • identicon
    AJ, 6 Jun 2016 @ 7:14am

    You are going to be able to see the fail from space, quite literally, when some 12 year old hacks into the system and figures out how to shut down the whole power grid because some idiot wanted to replace meter maids with a half assed tossed together "Smart Meter". Did Mike ever add popcorn to the TechDirt store? I may need to stock up.....

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

    • icon
      nasch (profile), 6 Jun 2016 @ 10:39am

      Re:

      Off topic, but I've always heard "meter maid" refer to someone checking parking meters and writing tickets, and "meter reader" is the person who checks the readings on utility meters. Is that regional maybe?

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Jun 2016 @ 7:52am

    I would bet the public backlash over the judge going on record saying "he couldn't be bothered to spend the time to do his job" in the first filing had something to do with this.

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


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Use markdown for basic formatting. HTML is no longer supported.
  Save me a cookie
Follow Techdirt
Techdirt Gear
Shop Now: I Invented Email
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.