FBI Asks Gawker Media to Retain Documents from AT&T Hackers

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A couple of months ago after pictures of the iPhone 4 prototype showed up in Gizmodo, parent company Gawker Media found itself arguing that the search warrant executed by the San Mateo County, Calif., Sheriff's Department on the home of editor Jason Chen was not the proper means of confiscating documents or other information that Chen may have had regarding how the prototype had "landed" at Gizmodo. Given California's journalist shield laws, Gawker argued, the proper means of collecting evidence would have been the issuance of a subpoena.


This week, Gawker has been in the spotlight again. This time, however, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has come calling. According to TechNewsWorld, it all started when a security flaw in AT&T's system allowed a group of hackers calling themselves "Goatse Security" to gain access to e-mail addresses and device IDs for thousands of iPad owners. They reportedly gave the list to Gawker Media's ValleyWag "with the understanding it wouldn't be published" because they wanted to bring the hole in AT&T's system to the attention of customers.


As writer Paul Hartsock points out, that explanation didn't satisfy the FBI because the agency has opened an investigation into the hack. And The Wall Street Journal reports the FBI wants Gawker to retain the documents it received from Goatse containing the iPad data. Gawker representatives say the company did not compensate Goatse for the list, nor do they believe that Gawker is a target of the FBI's investigation.


That's all good and well, but there are two things about this that seem particularly odd to me:

  • I don't buy the statement by Goatse that they gave the list to a Gawker Media site with the understanding that it would not be published. The same group had just broken a huge story about the iPhone.
  • This is the second huge story involving an Apple product that Gawker has broken in a matter of weeks. Is there an inside connection somewhere?


It will be fun to watch this one play out.