DOJ demands Twitter account info following discussion of an agent

Jon Fingas

Law enforcement is often eager to protect its own, but it might have overstepped its boundaries in an online case. The Department of Justice has sent a subpoena to Twitter demanding complete account info for @popehat (Ken White), @pogowasright (Dissent Doe), @dawg8u (Mike Honcho), @abtnatural (Virgil) and @associatesmind (Keith Lee) after security researcher Justin Shafer mentioned them in a tweet. While the post itself is a single smiling emoji, the DOJ believes they support cyber stalking allegations against Shafer over his response to a questionable FBI raid on his home. It's a bit complicated, so we'll elaborate.

It started in 2013, when Shafer found that Faircom's data 'encryption' package was really just a poor attempt at obfuscating info and had exposed a dentist's office to data theft. The researcher scored a win when the FTC settled with Faircom over false advertising, but Shafer faced an FBI raid in 2016 when another dentist's office responded to Shafer's disclosure of a glaring security hole (an open FTP server) by claiming he had broken the law. Shafer learned the name of one of the agents involved, Nathan Hopp, and found out that the agent was also linked to the arrest of John Rivello over the attempt to attack journalist Kurt Eichenwald with a seizure-inducing tweet.

The researcher then searched for public data on Hopp, such as family connections, and shared it on Twitter. White, Lee and the other Twitter users mentioned in the tweet had started their own discussions about Hopp, and Shafer's one-emoji tweet was a response to Honcho's joke that Hopp is the "least busy FBI agent of all time." The DOJ believes that Shafer was effectively stalking Hopp by publishing the info he did, and it's collecting info from those other users simply because they were swept up in his tweets.