Tidbit was a project designed by four Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) students who developed the software for a hackathon back in November 2013. The purpose of the software was to be a substitute for website advertisements, allowing sites to instead monetize visits by using the visitor computer to mine Bitcoins. However, no Bitcoins were ever mined because the mining function of the software code was never operable.
Back in December 2013, the New Jersey’s Division of Consumer Affairs issued a subpoena and information request to one of Tidbit’s developers, seeking extensive data from Tidbit, including its source code. Over the next eleven months, Tidbit challenged the subpoena in New Jersey state court.
Following the investigation, the Essex County Superior Court upheld the subpoena with a footnote that there were serious concerns that the state could be acting to discourage cutting edge new technology and that it appeared the Tidbit program served a useful and legitimate purpose and had no initial improper or malicious intent or design.
After a very lengthy negotiation process with the state, the company entered into a written agreement resolving this way the investigation. Under a consent order, Tidbit would be subject to a $25,000 fine. Ultimately, the Essex County Superior Court stressed that the fine would not be collected as long as the company doesn’t violate any laws over the next two years.
Now, as detailed in a consent order filed by the Essex County Superior Court in New Jersey, the New Jersey Attorney General drops the Tidbit investigation.
Judge Furnari, commented:
“We do not believe Tidbit was created for the purpose of invading privacy.”
The case is now solved and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) students can move on to other projects. Let’s just hope this misguided investigation will not deter other developers from pursuing their projects by fear of being subjected to similar scrutiny.