'Anonymous' BART Hack: SF Users' Info Leaked

By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on August 15, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Protesting BART's decision to jam cell phone service at underground stations in downtown San Francisco on Thursday, hacktivist group Anonymous is taking credit for Sunday's BART hack, which left the transportation agency's in-boxes flooded, and riders' personal information revealed for the world to see.

In addition to promising further hacks and technological mayhem, Anonymous has organized a large protest at downtown's Civic Center Station during tonight's evening commute.

While it's clear that Anonymous' BART hack is illegal activity, can the same be said for BART's Thursday response?

As a bit of background, BART chose to jam cell phone service on Thursday after it determined that organizers of an impending protest were to use social media to disclose the location of BART police.

Officials feared that platforms located in downtown stations would become overcrowded and dangerous as a result of the protesters and rush hour commute.

While BART's decision has attracted the ire of Anonymous and other free speech advocates, it was not necessarily a violation of the First Amendment.

The government is permitted to place reasonable time, place and manner restrictions on the use of public forums, including those restrictions that aim to control traffic, prevent overcrowding, and ensure safety.

While these restrictions do not need to be the least-intrusive means of accomplishing the government's goal, they must leave open other channels of communication, which could simply be word of mouth.

Though this analysis is anything but conclusive until a court weighs in, it's clear that BART's actions fall into a legal grey area, while Anonymous' do not.

Does the BART hack still seem appropriate under these circumstances? Or did the group go too far?

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