Today the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the ACLU of Massachusetts convinced a federal judge to lift a gag order on three MIT students who researched flaws in the MBTA’s fare payment system. Essentially, the students had found a way to ride free forever — but they weren’t sharing critical details that would allow others to exploit their discovery.
The MBTA responded by getting a temporary restraining order on Aug. 9 that prevented the students from discussing their findings any further, even though their research was based on publicly available information.
That’s exactly the wrong response. We raised questions about the security of other systems the MBTA was putting in place for the Charlie Card and Charlie Ticket more than three years ago, and we wish that the MBTA would focus on ensuring the security of its systems instead of trying to silence the messengers. It’s better to find out that there are problems in a system like this through the marketplace of ideas than through a malicious attack.