March 07, 2011, 11:53 AM — Sony wants the lowdown on those of you who visited PlayStation 3 hacker George Hotz's website, and it looks like a San Francisco judge has granted the company subpoena power to get it.
[ See also: PlayStation 3 hack released online ]
According to court documents addressing the case Sony Computer Entertainment America LLC v. Hotz, et al. (Case No. C-11-00167), Sony petitioned the court to obtain the Internet network addresses of anyone who accessed Hotz's website, Geohot.com, from January 2009 on, and it appears the petition succeeded.
Hotz, a well known hacker who helped jailbreak Apple's iPhone, recently posted the PS3's root key to his personal website (he subsequently removed it) along with related software utilities. The key allows anyone to decrypt and sign their own PS3 code, from games to Blu-ray movies and operating systems to various other applications.
Wired's David Kravets claims the decision "raises a host of web-privacy concerns." Indeed. Should a company be allowed subpoena power to identify any individual who accesses a private website for behavior of as yet indeterminate legality? It's a pickle, because Sony says it needs the information to in essence help make its case, by determining how broadly the hack was downloaded.
The subpoena's fairly broad-minded, too. It grants Sony access to Hotz's web host, Bluehost, as well as "third-party ISPs" Twitter, Google, YouTube, and Softlayer (though not PayPal--Hotz apparently wouldn't agree to let them access his account). There's been no word yet on challenges to the subpoena, or whether any of the above companies will comply with requests from Sony.
I'll do Sony a favor and raise my hand in advance. They'll surely find my Michigan-based IP address among the many. I accessed Hotz's website multiple times while the alleged rootkey was live and as I reported on the story. I couldn't make technical sense of what I was looking at (a string of letters and numbers, automatically "downloaded" because it was integral to the page's HTML code) or verify the code actually worked, and I didn't download any of the utilities, but I was there, sure enough.
Next up: A hearing in April to determine if Hotz should be tried in San Francisco--preferential to Sony--or his home state, New Jersey.