Text Message Suboena Reactions
April 3rd, 2008

With not just a few references to Big Brother, the internet has lit up with disapproval of New York City’s decision to subpoena the creator of a program that allowed people to join a text messaging network during the Republican National Convention in 2004. But with an eye towards the 2008 conventions, protesters are already looking to avoid similar problems.

The city is still dealing with hundreds of lawsuits over arrests made during the 2004 convention. And the city Law Department is seeking to expose the identities of those who used the TXTmob service, created by the Institute for Applied Autonomy, for use in its defense.

But Tad Hirsch, who wrote the code for the service and is on the receiving end of the subpoena is standing fast. Theres a principle at stake here, he told the New York Times. I think I have a moral responsibility to the people who use my service to protect their privacy.

Many are concerned about the implications of the city’s action.

“The subpoena threatens to terrorize people into not using mobile technology for mass actions,” says Anthony Ian Cruz, co-founder of TXTPower, an organization of cellphone users that aims to empower Filipinos both as consumers and as citizens.

A number of groups are already organizing for the 2008 conventions, and they need to take steps to avoid creating a trail that can be subpoenaed, says David Taylor, a protest organizer in San Francisco.

“The most important thing to remember for people who are providing technology services to activists is not to store personal information about whoever’s accessing those services because over-broad government requests can put people at risk just for participating in political activities,” he told Wired.

It shouldn’t be hard to create a system that takes privacy into account, says Ed Kohler, a tech blogger based in Minneapolis, where the Republican National Convention will be held. “I’m sure they could find someone in the world who’d be out of the reach of the St. Paul Police Department,” he told the Minnesota Monitor.

By on April 3, 2008, 1:58 pm
In category: Civil Rights,Crime & Safety,Tech | Comments Off on Text Message Suboena Reactions

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