The hacker collective Anonymous, which accessed BART’s website Sunday and published passwords and personal data belonging to more than 2,400 riders, is not of one mind about how best to challenge the powers that be.
In response to news stories describing that incident, some people claiming to be affiliated with the group have expressed concern about the action and how Anonymous is portrayed.
“The group that conducted the hacking, people need to know that it was NOT part of the plan, was/is NOT condoned by the majority of Anonymous, and was done IN SECRET,” said 19-year-old Michela Marsh, who said she’s been associated with the group for six years.
A student at New York University who said she is in contact with the “major players” behind this and other operations, Marsh claimed in an email that a group of six “Anons” planned the BART hack Friday night. She said when she and other people argued against the action in an online chat, “they made the chat private.”
Marsh described a rift between older Anons, who favor more extreme methods, and newer ones, who prefer more peaceful actions.
Monday’s BART protesters did not all appear to be members of Anonymous, even though self-proclaimed group members purportedly scheduled the event. Other protesters, angry at perceived BART police abuses, were more actively involved in trying to disrupt BART operations.
Some defended the so-called OpBART hack. “OpBART was an amazing op,” the self-identified Anon “Freedom Forever” told The San Francisco Examiner via Twitter. “It shows BART that they cannot censor the peoples of this world and that they can not take away freedom.”
Anon “Alba and Omegle,” who said he was not involved in the hacking, directed his criticism at the “technocratic desk jockey fail” that provoked the hack — BART’s decision last week to shut down wireless service in response to a planned protest at the Civic Center station.
“Coming up with sound policies is hard work and should not be as easy as flicking a switch,” Alba and Omegle wrote to The Examiner.
Nonetheless, he tweeted, Anonymous could have done a better job of responding to the transit agency’s action. He said the personal information released could have been scrambled so innocent people’s names were not matched with their passwords.
“I support illegal methods if [they] cause less collateral damage than legal,” he wrote.
Evolution of Monday’s protest
- July 3: Fatal shooting by BART police of an armed man at Civic Center station prompts a commute-delaying July 11 protest; BART officials promise to crack down on future protests.
- Thursday: When BART shuts down cellphone service in stations for three hours as a counter-measure against protesters, a planned protest fails to materialize.
- Sunday: Responding to the cellphone shutdown, Anonymous hacks into myBART.org website and releases personal information of more than 2,000 people.