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Outing disagreeable people

Rather by accident I stumbled on this story. The hactivist group Anonymous released a list of people who it said were members of the Ku Klux Klan. They announced it on Twitter under the hashtags #OpKKK and #HoodsOff.

The list had some mistakes in it, and some people were falsely accused. The list was updated. Anonymous isn’t exactly a well-organized group, and more than one competing list has been posted. I looked through the first half of my Birthers from A to Z list and didn’t find anyone, not that I really expected to. Despite hype that the list would contain a thousand Klansmen, only a few hundred appeared, and many of those were aliases and others already known.

News reports say that Anonymous learned some code identification acronyms that KKK members use make contact online, and through them gained access to some Klan members’ Facebook pages. It spotted potential Klansmen under the topic “blue lives matter,” by scanning for racist comments; however, another page tells a different story; it says that Klan web sites were hacked, IP addresses harvested and:

Through geolocation, each IP address has been tied to an individual computer, which has a home address and a name affiliated with that address. Anonymous has also tied social media accounts to each of these IP addresses, some of which have left significant social media footprints.

I don’t know the abilities of these Anonymous hackers, but I have some doubts about the truthfulness of that statement.

Much of the list consists of Facebook pages of these individuals and news reports say that now most of those pages have been shut down. Critics say that not much new information was revealed. Other critics took a more aggressive stance. @zappin_liberals wrote:

@Operation_KKK trigger warnings? LMAO. U guys r tools. Obviously Obama operatives. No one’s fooled. A list of black hate groups is coming.

The reason that the story interested me is that we Obots have lists too, lists beyond birthers who identify themselves in public (whose names appear on my Birthers from A to Z list). Obots haven’t hacked anyone that I know of, but at least one prominent birther web site left a file dump of all its comments laying around where Google could find it (containing screen names, email addresses and IP addresses), and through technical means (that I won’t discuss until January 20, 2017) the identities of many birther commenters at various birther web sites have been identified. The damage done by the errors in the Anonymous KKK list is a cautionary tale for anyone who has a list that they might consider making public. The Obots aren’t considering releasing our lists, by the way.

Birthers got into the outing game a few years back, identifying, or trying to identify anonymous Obots. That wasn’t very effective either because they got it wrong (like Jerome Corsi’s epic fail attempting to out JimBot) or because Obots have nothing to be ashamed of in the first place.

I personally believe in a right to privacy, and that right extends to people I would consider scum. But I also believe that people should be accountable for their actions. It’s not an easy ethical problem. I don’t condemn Anonymous for what they did, but if it were me, I wouldn’t have done it.

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22 Responses to Outing disagreeable people

  1. avatar
    RanTalbott November 7, 2015 at 11:19 pm #

    “I don’t know the abilities of these Anonymous hackers, but I have some doubts about the truthfulness of that statement”
    You shouldn’t: it’s complete BS.

    At work, I have a static IP address in a block which is leased from the organization that originally got it from ICANN. Geolocation routinely places me about 1000 miles away.

    At home, I get a public IP from my provider. Some advertisers somewhat-correctly place me in the nearby town that’s part my mailing address, but I think that’s because they’re through Google (which, of course, knows way too much about me). The ones who appear to be using geolocation think I’m in the large city about 100 miles away that my DHCP pool is managed from.

    If you can get access to the provider’s DHCP server and its customer info, you can probably figure out the physical address the IPA is assigned to. If Anonymous managed to do that, the people on their list should be raising hell with their ISPs for lousy security.

  2. avatar
    Dave November 7, 2015 at 11:57 pm #

    Whatever the ethics are of outing a bunch of Klansmen, it’s another matter if the list is wrong. Then it’s defamation.

    And I agree that the geolocation trick is a bunch of BS. It’s such a bad idea, it was used by Taitz’s commenters to misidentify the source of a threatening comment and harass him.

  3. avatar
    Lupin November 8, 2015 at 2:44 am #

    Since I feel no need to hide, I don’t feel concerned at all; The very very tiny number of weird or hostile emails (or letters) I receive is enormously balanced by the great deal of very nice or pleasant contacts I’ve received over the years. But then i don’t go around spewing hatred.

  4. avatar
    J.D. Sue November 8, 2015 at 3:59 pm #

    “I personally believe in a right to privacy, and that right extends to people I would consider scum. But I also believe that people should be accountable for their actions. It’s not an easy ethical problem. I don’t condemn Anonymous for what they did, but if it were me, I wouldn’t have done it.”

    —-

    Doc, I personally believe it is always best to error on the side of privacy. I don’t condemn Anonymous for doing this to the klan but I do not approve of it either. And of course there is a certain irony in private Anonymous people outing private anonymous people. Two (and much more) can play at that game, and I don’t like where this is leading.

    I value privacy. Maybe because I was a data modeler for many years and developed a deep sense of what I’ll just call ‘data use and abuse.’ Maybe because I then fell in love with Louis Brandeis. Our maybe it is because I am by nature a private person.

    IMO, privacy, as a value, has nothing to do with secrecy or a sense of guilt, and we do ourselves a disservice when we cast it in that light. Privacy is more about personal boundaries and human dignity–something we wittingly or unwittingly sell short everyday.

  5. avatar
    Keith November 8, 2015 at 6:36 pm #

    J.D. Sue: IMO, privacy, as a value, has nothing to do with secrecy or a sense of guilt, and we do ourselves a disservice when we cast it in that light. Privacy is more about personal boundaries and human dignity–something we wittingly or unwittingly sell short everyday.

    Yes.

    Well said.

    🗽😀

  6. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy November 8, 2015 at 7:07 pm #

    I linked to a story almost a year ago about a right-wing name harvesting project by Research Group in Sweden. Only a few of the 6,000 commenters who were identified at a right-wing web web site were actually exposed publicly, but the incident created a firestorm of debate, something I haven’t seen about the Klan doxing. The members of Research Group were not anonymous, and there was a backlash against them personally. Article: http://www.technologyreview.com/featuredstory/533426/the-troll-hunters/

    The question of the right to privacy for a private person is an easy one for me. Where it gets dicey is the right to privacy for a public person. Does the public’s right to cast an informed vote override a candidate’s right to privacy?

    Readers may have noticed that I don’t link to the Klan lists directly (although you can get there from here). That’s intentional. Just for the record, when I got the list, the first name I searched for was Apuzzo, and the second Klayman. I didn’t find, nor did I expect to find, them, but if I had, I would probably have said so in the article.

    J.D. Sue: Privacy is more about personal boundaries and human dignity–something we wittingly or unwittingly sell short everyday.

  7. avatar
    bgansel9 November 8, 2015 at 7:42 pm #

    I had a lot of respect for Anonymous when they when they were going after Scientology. I’ve lost that respect completely since they branched out into other areas. They are hazardous.

  8. avatar
    bgansel9 November 8, 2015 at 8:02 pm #

    RanTalbott: At home, I get a public IP from my provider. Some advertisers somewhat-correctly place me in the nearby town that’s part my mailing address, but I think that’s because they’re through Google (which, of course, knows way too much about me). The ones who appear to be using geolocation think I’m in the large city about 100 miles away that my DHCP pool is managed from.

    I’m constantly being told that I live more than 20 miles from my location.

  9. avatar
    Keith November 8, 2015 at 10:01 pm #

    bgansel9: I’m constantly being told that I live more than 20 miles from my location.

    This one has always worked perfectly for me. YMMV of course.

    phone finder

  10. avatar
    alg November 8, 2015 at 10:11 pm #

    I do not believe it is appropriate for anyone to hack into a privately-owned website and publically expose what individuals expect is privately kept confidential information.

    That said, I don’t have a problem with someone deducing someone’s internet identity from readily available information and exposing that individual’s identity, but you better be 100% certain about who that person is. So, for example, if you know who FALCON is based upon available public sources, it is alright by me to share who FALCON really is.

    But the idea that someone could break into a private data base and share that information is just plain wrong.

  11. avatar
    RanTalbott November 9, 2015 at 12:01 am #

    Dr. Conspiracy: but the incident created a firestorm of debate, something I haven’t seen about the Klan doxing.

    One crucial difference is that the Research Group went after people who were saying nasty things, and not necessarily doing them, while the best that can be said for the Klan is that they’re not doing as much evil as they used to. That makes the latter less objectionable, in theory.

    But, as alg said, in practice you’d better be absolutely sure about every case when you make such an accusation. And, from the little I’ve read so far, it sounds like Anonymous were not.

    Dr. Conspiracy: Does the public’s right to cast an informed vote override a candidate’s right to privacy?

    If it’s significant to their candidacy or performance in office, yes.

    Having an affair with a neighbor or staffer? No.

    Suffering from depression that’s controlled by meds? Or Irritable Bowel Syndrome? No.

    Having a long-running affair with a lobbyist? Maybe.

    Swapping that lobbyist sex (or money) for favors? Yes.

    Terminal cancer? Or psychotic episodes (even if usually controlled by meds)? Almost certainly. The voters might elect them, anyway, but they have a right to know if the candidate may be incapable of serving the full term, or of serving well.

    There’s a fuzzy area in the middle, but it’s bracketed by large swaths of “Definitely yes” and “Definitely no”.

  12. avatar
    Lupin November 9, 2015 at 4:10 am #

    RanTalbott: One crucial difference is that the Research Group went after people who were saying nasty things, and not necessarily doing them,

    Sadly it is a short step from SPEWING hatred to ACTING on it:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/applebees-attack-foreign-language_563f7b19e4b0411d30715f58

  13. avatar
    The Magic M (not logged in) November 9, 2015 at 4:35 am #

    Through geolocation, each IP address has been tied to an individual computer, which has a home address and a name affiliated with that address.

    That’s pretty much bogus. Geolocation often does not even identify the proper city (I remember my university showing up as “Frankfurt” because that’s where the central German internet node is), and even if it may be better in singular cases, it won’t be able to pinpoint a home address (unless you have a static IP registered under your address).
    And to be technically precise, even if you could identify a home address and the person the access point is registered to, the one using the computer may be any member of the family (e.g. the home owner’s son may be the one secretly communicating with the KKK).

  14. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy November 9, 2015 at 6:42 am #

    Or in my case, a neighbor connecting to my WiFi network (many years ago).

    The Magic M (not logged in): And to be technically precise, even if you could identify a home address and the person the access point is registered to, the one using the computer may be any member of the family (e.g. the home owner’s son may be the one secretly communicating with the KKK).

  15. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy November 9, 2015 at 6:46 am #

    You mean:

    http://www.trackapartner.com/

    Keith: This one has always worked perfectly for me. YMMV of course.

  16. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy November 9, 2015 at 8:22 am #

    Research Group falls into a gray area, harvesting information made public, but not intended to be public. That is, Disqus intended to encrypt the email addresses, but left them in a form that could be deciphered (in many cases) by someone willing to put in a lot of effort. Is decrypting a publicly-available file equivalent to breaking the password on a site and downloading a database?

    It’s not unlike the case where the birther web site left a file searchable by Google containing email addresses laying around, exported from a system that intentionally doesn’t display the email addresses.

    What if I find a flash drive laying in the street that just happens to contain the names and salaries of everyone in some large corporation?

    alg: But the idea that someone could break into a private data base and share that information is just plain wrong.

  17. avatar
    Keith November 9, 2015 at 8:36 am #

    Dr. Conspiracy:
    You mean:

    http://www.trackapartner.com/

    hmmm. Yeah. I guess it doesn’t always work for me after all. Bad markup? I did do it on my tablet.

  18. avatar
    J.D. Sue November 9, 2015 at 10:14 am #

    RanTalbott: the best that can be said for the Klan is that they’re not doing as much evil as they used to.

    —-
    and who hasn’t wanted to pull their damn hoods off?!

  19. avatar
    RanTalbott November 9, 2015 at 11:57 am #

    Keith: This one has always worked perfectly for me. YMMV of course.

    Well, aside from the fact that it lied about connecting to the phone, got the general area wrong by several thousand miles, and claimed I was doing Brownian motion at hundreds of miles per second, I guess the only problem was the crappy maps.

  20. avatar
    Keith November 9, 2015 at 4:44 pm #

    RanTalbott: Well, aside from the fact that it lied about connecting to the phone, got the general area wrong by several thousand miles, and claimed I was doing Brownian motion at hundreds of miles per second, I guess the only problem was the crappy maps.

    Gee. You aren’t supposed to use it on your son’s phone while he’s out skate boarding. You’re supposed to use your wife’s phone 8-))

  21. avatar
    bgansel9 November 9, 2015 at 11:18 pm #

    Keith: This one has always worked perfectly for me. YMMV of course.

    Personally, I like that people think I live 20 miles away from my location. I’ll stick with the faulty default. 😛

  22. avatar
    bgansel9 November 9, 2015 at 11:21 pm #

    J.D. Sue: and who hasn’t wanted to pull their damn hoods off?!

    Oh, they’re just a tad insecure. 😛