Aaron Swartz was a highly accomplished computer programmer and activist who was a member of the team that published the RSS 1.0 specification, contributed to the architecture of Creative Commons, and through his startup Infogami became involved with Reddit; among many other accomplishments. At age 26, this past January, he committed suicide in his apartment in Brooklyn.
Aaron was being investigated by federal prosecutors Steve Heymann and Scott Garland “for the alleged crime of downloading too many JSTOR articles too quickly.” Many friends and family believe the prodigy was pushed to suicide by this more than two year investigation designed by supervising U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz to “send a message”. The investigation was closed after his death.
Quinn Norton, a journalist who was — for four years — romantically involved with Aaron writes at length about her feelings and the role she played in the investigation against Aaron:
“Once your life is inside a federal investigation, there is no space outside of it. The only private thing is your thoughts, and even they don’t feel safe anymore. Every word you speak or write can be used, manipulated, or played like a card against your future and the future of those you love. There are no neutral parties, no sources of unimpeachable wisdom and trust.…”