The US Department of Justice wants DreamHost to hand over IP addresses of some 1.3 million visitors to disruptj20.org, a website that helped organize political protests during President Trump’s inauguration. The company has decided to challenge the request in court.
According to a blog post by the LA-based web hosting provider, the DOJ first requested information about the website and its owner, but is now asking DreamHost to provide a glut of data, including the IP logs of all the site’s visitors.
DreamHost’s counsel is now legally challenging such a broad, untargeted request for data.
“That information could be used to identify any individuals who used this site to exercise and express political speech protected under the Constitution’s First Amendment,” the company noted. “This is, in our opinion, a strong example of investigatory overreach and a clear abuse of government authority. The internet was founded — and continues to survive, in the main — on its democratizing ability to facilitate a free exchange of ideas. Internet users have a reasonable expectation that they will not get swept up in criminal investigations simply by exercising their right to political speech against the government.”
Brett Max Kaufman, Staff Attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union, noted that this is not the only time the government has gone after Inauguration Day protesters.
“The protests have also been at the focus of a major investigation by D.C.’s Metropolitan Police Department. So far, more than 200 protestors have been charged with crimes such as ‘property damage’ and ‘felony riot,’ and the D.C. Police seized and searched hundreds of protestors’ cell phones,” he pointed out.
In this fight for user privacy, DreamHost is being counselled by the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
“DreamHost did the right thing: it stood up for its users. It offered the government a chance to narrow the scope of the warrant. And when the government refused, DreamHost went to court,” Mark Rumold, EFF Senior Staff Attorney, explained.
It now remains to be seen whether the court will accept their reasoning. A court hearing on the matter is scheduled for August 18 (this Friday), in Superior Court in Washington.