Latvian police decline to hold database hacker

Latvian law enforcement officials are close to finishing their investigation of an artificial intelligence researcher who gained access to a government database, releasing sensitive salary information on Twitter.

Ilmars Poikans was questioned and released by authorities on Thursday, said Zane Maskalonoki, spokeswoman for the Latvian state police. Poikans, an artificial intelligence researcher with the University of Latvia, was cooperative and not a danger to the public, she said.

The case will soon be forwarded to prosecutors, who will decide whether to charge Poikans, Maskalonoki said.

Poikans, who went by the nickname of Neo, stands accused of illegally accessing the SRS Electronic Declaration System, a database of taxpayer information that included salary information for government officials, from October 2009 to February 2010.

The database was Internet-facing and unprotected. The salary information was scheduled to be publicly released, but Poikans gained early access to it, Maskalonoki said. The Latvian government has recently decided to release the information monthly, she said.

Poikans published bits of the database information via Twitter, gaining rapid popularity for his disclosures that came as Latvia faces severe economic problems. He showed that state officials continued to receive high salaries as the country cut back on public services.

According to an AFP report, protesters stood on Thursday outside the main government building in Riga calling for Poikans' release.

Efforts to reach Poikans were unsuccessful. An official with the University of Latvia's computer science department said he was not a member of the faculty and declined to give contact information.

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