Judge demands tech companies hand activist data over to Chevron
Hey kids, it’s a cool new update from your favorite horror show, The Surveillance State!
This week’s episode features multinational oil giant Chevron, 100-plus activists, and basic American civil liberties. Who do you think might win?!
Chevron is attempting to defend itself against a pesky $18 billion-plus judgment for its dirty dealing in the Ecuador rainforest. In the company’s appeal against the landmark judgment, a federal judge in New York has upheld a subpoena from Chevron seeking IP addresses and identity records of people allegedly tied to the investigation. From EarthRights International:
The sweeping subpoena was one of three issued to Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft, demanding IP usage records and identity information for the holders of more than 100 email accounts, including environmental activists, journalists and attorneys. Chevron’s subpoena sought personal information about every account holder and the IP addresses associated with every login to each account over a nine-year period.
This could allow Chevron to determine the countries, states, cities or even buildings where the account-holders were checking their email so as to “infer the movements of the users over the relevant period and might permit Chevron to makes inferences about some of the user’s professional and personal relationships.”
The court’s logic is that maybe the First Amendment doesn’t apply to these anonymous people, because maybe they aren’t U.S. citizens — because, you know, we don’t know who they are because they are anonymous.
Of course this isn’t the first time Chevron has lobbed subpoenas at its critics in this case, and it’s also certainly not the first time the feds have assisted in some serious eco-creepin. In this case, the judge’s logic is similar to the slippery explanation the National Security Agency and President Obama have used to defend the federal PRISM dragnet. But here’s the thing about a dragnet: It can catch up everything in its path, whether or not that thing is a U.S. citizen with constitutional rights.
This shouldn’t just give activists pause — it should give us all a little (more!) motivation to protect ourselves and our data. If you are interested in speaking out against multinational energy giants with lots of lawyers, I would suggest checking out this handy digital security guide from Micah Lee at the Freedom of the Press Foundation.