Whatever your belief regarding the activities and conviction of Andrew “Weev” Auernheimer, it can’t be denied that he is pitted against titans in the telecom industry. Free speech, data exploitation, identity, and security of and for individuals are just a few of the issues that his case highlights as vulnerable online.
Currently Weev is being held in a federal penitentiary in Pennsylvania. At the penitentiary, Weev is being regularly kept in solitary confinement and released for 15-minute showers, three times a week, according to Vice, and being threatened with constant relocation, also known as diesel therapy, to disrupt his ability to communicate.
So what did Weev do to land him in this situation? He exposed a major and amateur security flaw in the way AT&T handled iPads over its cellular network. For this “crime” he was sentenced to 3.5 years in prison.
The reason for Auernheimer’s sentence is allegedly rooted in how he handled reporting AT&T’s security oversight once he was aware of it. Rather than reporting the flaw to AT&T, Weev provided the information to a journalist. He reasoned that the company deserved to be publicly held accountable for its sloppy security practices. He believed that reporting this to the company directly would not produce the necessary reprimand that AT&T deserved.
Keep in mind that what Weev “exposed” was information that was readily and publicly available to anyone that knew where and how to look.
Andrew’s case is a harrowing reminder that the archaic days of silencing whistleblowers are not so far behind us. Looking at recent government actions (i.e. Citizens United, Mensing, CISPA, SOPA, DEFCAD, AP Records Scandal, and IRS targeting of conservative groups, among others), the corporatist leanings are apparent.
Putting Andrew “Weev” Auernheimer in prison establishes a scary precedent. A company’s security oversights are embarrassing and should be. The fear of public ridicule and reprisal is an acceptable motivator for appropriate corporate behavior. Corporations have lobbied and bullied themselves into a position of superiority over the individual. Silencing Weev is just one more step towards a corporate guided future – one in which, when a corporation does something wrong, the corporation is the only one that’s allowed to know about it.
Joshua is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire.