USA: Department of Justice demands IDs of people who visited anti-Trump site; DreamHost won’t comply

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Article
25 August 2017

DreamHost ordered to release some Trump protest website data to US Justice Department

Author: Tiffany Hsu, New York Times

"DreamHost Ordered to Release Some Trump Protest Website Data to U.S.," 25 August 2017

A Superior Court judge in Washington on Thursday ordered the web hosting company DreamHost to turn over data associated with a Trump protest website to federal prosecutors - but not as much as the Justice Department had originally sought. The ruling by Judge Robert E. Morin allows the government to proceed with a scaled-back search warrant for records related to the website DisruptJ20.org, which served as a clearinghouse for plans to protest President Trump’s swearing-in on Jan. 20.

In a blog post, DreamHost, which is based in Brea, Calif., called the decision a win with caveats - a successful effort to beat back “unreasonable” requests by the Justice Department and “effectively shackle” federal investigators. But DreamHost said that the ruling was an affront to privacy rights and that it would consider an appeal after reviewing a transcript of the hearing. Until the company reaches a decision, the Justice Department will have access to certain emails sent through the domain but must wait to comb through them.

To assuage DreamHost’s worries about potential First Amendment violations, Judge Morin will supervise the examination of the data... [also refers to GoDaddy and Google]

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Article
23 August 2017

US Department of Justice withdraws request for visitor data on anti-Trump website; privacy concerns remain

Author: Julia Carrie Wong, The Guardian

"US government backs off its bid to obtain data on visitors to anti-Trump website."

The US government has backed away from an effort to obtain personal information about 1.3m visitors to an anti-Trump website, following a public outcry over what was widely perceived as a “fishing expedition” for political dissidents... Federal prosecutors on Tuesday substantially narrowed the scope of a search warrant seeking information related to a website, www.disruptj20.org, that was used to coordinate protests during Donald Trump’s inauguration... The original warrant sought every piece of information possessed by website-hosting company DreamHost related to the site, including the IP addresses of the site’s 1.3m visitors. The revised warrant excludes the IP addresses of visitors as well as unpublished blogposts or other media... “The government has now withdrawn entirely its unlawful and highly problematic request for any data relating to the visitors of the website and any unpublished data subject to the Privacy Protection Act,” a DreamHost attorney, Raymond Aghaian, said by email. “This is a tremendous win for DreamHost, its users and the public.”... DreamHost said in a blogpost that it still planned to challenge certain “first and fourth amendment issues raised by the warrant” at the hearing.

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Article
15 August 2017

Department of Justice demands IDs of people who visited anti-Trump site; DreamHost won't comply

Author: Jordan Novet, CNBC

"The DOJ Is Demanding IDs of People who visited anti-Trump site, but web host won't comply," 15 August 2017

Web hosting company DreamHost said on Monday [14 August 2017] that it would not comply with the U.S. Justice Department's request for data on more than 1 million visitors to [disruptj20.org] a site it hosts... The activist group was behind a coordinated effort to organize "mass protests to shut down the inauguration of Donald Trump," according to its DisruptJ20's site.

Other hosting companies and web service providers regularly acknowledge government data requests, but site visitor data isn't typically requested. In recent months Alphabet, Cloudflare, Microsoft and other companies have publicly posted redacted versions of national security letters they have received after disclosure bans were lifted. In most cases, the U.S. government was only seeking data for individual account holders.

"A lot of these issues have only been about a single customer, a single account - very narrow in scope," said Chris Ghazarian, general counsel at DreamHost, in an interview. "This is a completely different issue. This is not just about this account. It's not just about users of the account. It's about the internet users and about the community as a whole."

DreamHost responded to the Justice Department's data request by saying it was asking for too much. The government then asked the Superior Court of the District of Columbia to compel DreamHost to hand over the data, as the company detailed in a blog post...

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Article
14 August 2017

Feds demand 1.3 million IP addresses of visitors to Trump protest website

Author: Thomas Fox-Brewster, Forbes

"Feds Demand '1.3 Million IP Addresses' of Visitors to Trump Protest Website," 14 August 2017

Web hoster DreamHost says it has been asked to hand over more than 1.3 million IP addresses on visitors to a site that helped organize anti-Trump protests earlier this year. It published a search warrant Monday signed July 12th, in which a District of Colombia court said DreamHost had to hand over records from disruptj20.org covering "the individuals who participated, planned, organized, or incited the January 20 riot," Trump's inauguration day.

That data appears to include IP addresses, emails and physical addresses of the website owners, as well as similar details on all users of the site, such as information about messages submitted to the page and when they accessed disruptj20.org...

Disruptj20.org, according to its site, was set up to build "the framework needed for mass protests to shut down the inauguration of Donald Trump and planning widespread direct actions to make that happen."...

DreamHost said it would fight the order. It's already filed an opposition letter, in which it argued the government had not provided enough particularity on what data it wanted and that the order violated the Fourth Amendment and privacy laws. In that complaint, DreamHost notes that a week after the inauguration, it had already provided registration details for the owners of disruptj20.org. It appears the government is now primarily after information on visitors...

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Article
14 August 2017

USA: DreamHost denies govt. access to all information on anti-Trump site visitors citing freedom of speech & freedom of association

Author: DreamHost

"We Fight for the Users," 14 August 2017

For the past several months, DreamHost has been working with the Department of Justice to comply with legal process... At the center of the requests is disruptj20.org, a website that organized participants of political protests against the current United States administration... [T]he DOJ has recently asked DreamHost to provide all information available to us about this website, its owner, and, more importantly, its visitors...

The request from the DOJ demands that DreamHost hand over [amongst others] 1.3 million visitor IP addresses...in an effort to determine who simply visited the website... 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. That should be enough to set alarm bells off in anyone’s mind. This is, in our opinion, a strong example of investigatory overreach and a clear abuse of government authority.

As we do in all such cases where the improper collection of data is concerned, we challenged the Department of Justice on its warrant and attempted to quash its demands for this information through reason, logic, and legal process. Instead of responding to our inquiries regarding the overbreadth of the warrant, the DOJ filed a motion [link to document provided on website] in the Washington, D.C. Superior Court, asking for an order to compel DreamHost to produce the records...

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