Anonymous Goes After the Pepper Spray Cop's Personal Info

Leaking info is classic hactivism, but police don't see it as simple digital mischief

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The police officer videoed spraying what appears to be pepper spray into the eyes of peaceful protesters in New York City on Saturday has found Internet fame as online activists target him in traditional hacker fashion: By releasing all his personal and professional data online in an attack known as a dox. The last few months have seen the online activism of Anonymous moving into the real world with direct actions like the Op-BART demonstrations in San Francisco and the ongoing Occupy Wall Street protest in New York. The spread of this video blurs the line between online and real-world activism once more as the wider digital population of Anonymous targets the officer for retaliation by going after his data, his identity, and his job in a classic bit of hactivism.

The blog David's Camera Craft was one of the first to show a close-up photo of the officer's name and badge, and since then a full-fledged dox operation has gotten underway, organized on Twitter and carried out on sites like Pastebin and personal blogs. Since the officer's name (Anthony Bologna) was revealed, sites like Indiepundit have gone ahead with a campaign to publicize his work phone number, encouraging readers to call and complain to his supervisor. Cryptome released a series of photos culled from the website of the first precinct, where Bologna works. But others have gone further: A post on Anonymous's Tumblr (copied from this Pastebin document) lists what it claims is bologna's personal phone number, his last-known home addresses, the names of his relatives, his high school alma mater, and a record of a lawsuit against him for directing widely criticized arrests of protesters during the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York.

Among hackers, the dox (short for documents, roughly) is one of the most basic and effective tools. It's what online vigilantes used against the Lulz Security hackers as they undertook their campaign of mischief, and it's a big part of what Anonymous did to Aaron Barr, the head of HBGary Federal, back in February. But carrying out a dox on a police officer is a little different. They're not supposed to work anonymously, which is why their names are on their badges. They're public employees, so you can find their station number and professional record fairly easily. But because they work where they do, they and their departments take breaches of personal data a lot more seriously. After LulzSec released personal data for police officers in Arizona, one officer took his entire family into hiding.

This is where Anonymous's data-driven activism borders on criminality. It's illegal to threaten a police officer, and the language surrounding Bologna's dox certainly sounds threatening: "Before you commit atrocities against innocent people, think twice. WE ARE WATCHING!!! Expect Us!" Bologna and the NYPD appear to be taking the breach seriously. A tweet from an Anonymous account read on Monday: "I've been informed from a source onsite at #occupywallstreet that NYPD is aware of Anthony Bologna's data released & have taken him offsite."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.