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Judge won't order IP addresses revealed

December 18, 2008 6:13:27 PM PST
A judge declined Thursday to order Arkansas officials to reveal which state computers were used to edit Wikipedia entries about Gov. Mike Beebe, former Gov. Mike Huckabee and another former elected official. Circuit Judge Marion Humphrey declined "for reasons of security" to order the disclosure of the physical locations of five computers used to edit profiles about the politicians. Two Associated Press employees had sued to get the information. They are considering an appeal.

The popular online encyclopedia allows anyone to submit or make changes to articles. Using a Web site called WikiScanner that tracks changes to Wikipedia, Associated Press writer Jon Gambrell could see that the edits were made by computers with numeric Internet addresses assigned to the state.

Huckabee's entry was changed to delete information about a controversial pardon and his frequent use of a state-owned airplane while Beebe's was changed to eliminate an inaccurate reference to his having a male "life partner" rather than his wife, Ginger.

Knowing which state agency had the computer that edited Huckabee's Wikipedia entry was relevant because it happened while the former governor was seeking the Republican presidential nomination, Gambrell testified. Arkansas policy dictates that state resources are not to be used for political purposes.

The initial Freedom of Information request asked only which offices the computers were located in, not the name of the employee who used that computer.

Claire Bailey, director of the Arkansas Department of Information Systems, testified Thursday that releasing that information would give "the opportunity for hackers to pinpoint a specific group."

Thomas Welch, president and chief executive of Florida-based Bullzi Security, testified that computer networks are best protected by firewalls, employee training and intrusion-detector services - not "security through obscurity" by keeping the location of Internet Protocol, or IP, addresses secret.

Gambrell and AP Arkansas News Editor Kelly P. Kissel filed the suit in their own names in October 2007 to demonstrate that any citizen can do it. The AP retained local counsel to represent the two journalists in court.


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