This is just another installment of how the freedom of expression and scientific research is being sacrificed on the altar of “public safety” and “property rights”. From the CNET article:
“A federal judge on Saturday granted the Massachusetts transit
authority’s request for an injunction preventing three MIT students
from giving a presentation about hacking smartcards used in the Boston
To summarize this incident: a couple of student find a giant security hole is a publicly financed payment system. They inform the authorities and involved parties to given them a change to work on the situation. The faceless bureaucrats respond in the way any large (and thus inefficient) organization will respond: ignorance and disbelief. The students follow the time-honored tradition of publicizing their results and suddenly the gears spring into actions: federal courts, FBI, and preliminary injunctions appear. The official reason is “public safety”, but everyone involved knows that this is just a very lame excuse. In truth, it is the desire of an inadequately powerful state-sponsored enterprise to hide their incompetence and silence their “subjects”.
The fact that this can even be done is the availability of unconstitutional laws (at least in spirit) like the DMCA and similar utterly meritless legislation. Coming from Europe, I am used to the frequent oppression of freedoms, even today. So far, the U.S. has been setting an example of how e.g. the freedom of expression should be interpreted. This gag order by a federal judge in Boston (sic!) is an untenable limitation of this right. It goes against some of the most fundamental principles enshrined in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
For more information, check the EFF website.
tags: civil rights, freedom of speech, mbta