It’s hard for many people not to chuckle at a Trekkie protester demanding an end to government surveillance, but should the government be the one cracking the punchline?
After tweeting three photos of anti-surveillance protesters including one in 23rd-century garb, the Massachusetts State Police’s Twitter account has raised that question while leaving unanswered more concerns about how much monitoring is appropriate — and whether the pictures were meant to inform or mock.
“I wanted to be heard as a nation yesterday, that spying on the America public is not okay,” a protester who identified himself as Bryan Gallant, 29, wrote. “What better holiday to voice your concerns than the 4th of July when our founding fathers wrote our constitution.”
Instead, after Gallant and other protesters wrapped up a protest at the Old State House to demonstrate closer to the Esplanade, they found themselves the focus of even more government surveillance, this one a little more localized and not nearly as secret.
“The MSP taking pictures and tweeting them out to almost 69,000 followers in mockery of what we were trying to accomplish is inadequate and inappropriate behavior coming from our public servants,” Gallant told me.
It also flies in the face of strict Massachusetts privacy law, called CORI, that protects against releasing “records and data in any communicable form compiled by a Massachusetts criminal justice agency which concern an identifiable individual and relate to the nature or disposition of a criminal charge, an arrest, a pre-trial proceeding, other judicial proceedings, sentencing, incarceration, rehabilitation, or release.” (See G.L. c. 6, I67).
While it would be a difficult argument to make that the tweets were a CORI violation, it is interesting to note that the state police almost universally object to the release of mug shots through state public records requests (an example rejection), citing CORI, but are now releasing photographs of protesters never charged with a a crime.
And CORI violations can carry stiff penalties of up to $5,000 and a year in jail, particularly if as a pattern of “harassment”:
For purposes of this section, “harassment” shall mean willfully and maliciously engaging in a knowing pattern of conduct or series of acts over a period of time directed at a specific person, which seriously alarms that person and would cause a reasonable person to suffer emotional distress.
I called and emailed the State Police’s media department and received no response over the afternoon.
I also filed a public records request to learn more:
— A copy of the social media manager’s home screens, to see what apps they use.
— A copy of all the photos stored on the iPhone used to send out July 4th messages.
Some of the latter were really spectacular: