EFF has urged a federal appeals court to block administrative subpoenas from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that would reveal the identities of three pseudonymous Gmail users. In an amicus brief filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, EFF argued that the SEC failed to support its subpoenas with sufficient evidence to demonstrate a compelling need for the information that would overcome the emailers’ constitutional right to speak anonymously.
The SEC’s subpoenas are part of an investigation into a potential “pump and dump” scheme involving Jammin’ Java Corp. which saw its stock price soar and plummet within a short period of time in late 2010 and early 2011. The SEC has argued that “online newsletters” potentially containing “materially misleading information” were distributed around the time of the stock price fluctuation. However, the SEC has not explained why it has targeted the Gmail account holders, nor has it even identified any newsletters in question. In Wednesday’s amicus filing, EFF explained why it would be particularly dangerous to allow government agencies the ability to investigate speakers without demonstrating a legitimate need for the information.