On Thursday, a D.C. court ordered DreamHost to comply with the Department of Justice’s request for data related to the anti-Trump protest website disruptj20.org — with some meaningful stipulations.
Following the hearing DreamHost published a blog post hailing the court proceedings as a win, though acknowledging that it still viewed the DOJ’s modified request as “overly broad.” Still, the DOJ won’t be able to obtain all of the information it originally sought, including the IP addresses of more than one million web visitors, and now that process will be heavily overseen by the court.
“Today’s ruling was a step in the right direction,” DreamHost General Counsel Chris Ghazarian told TechCrunch. “We are happy that they decided to retract a lot of the problematic requests but there still are quite a few issues.”
Ghazarian notes that the DOJ’s request for email content and the discussion list named in the warrant are still objectionable, but this week’s events on the whole were a win for not just DreamHost but internet users at large.
“We’re happy that Judge Morin recognized the First Amendment concerns… and will essentially have the court overseeing the process,” Ghazarian said. “To my knowledge I haven’t seen this [kind of oversight] being used.”
That court oversight, designed to protect the privacy of the website’s visitors, is a “minimization plan” that includes detailing which specific individuals in the government will have access to the data and providing information about all methods that the DOJ will employ to probe the data for evidence.
The company hopes that the precedent set by DreamHost’s resistance will inspire other companies who might “blindly comply” with similarly broad government requests to take a stand in the future.
“The de-scoping of the original warrant, combined with the court’s additional restrictions on the use of, and access to, that data, is a clear victory for user privacy,” DreamHost wrote in its blog. On Wednesday, DreamHost filed a sur reply to the DOJ’s decision to limit the scope of the request.
If the web host chooses not to appeal Thursday’s decision, it will proceed in complying with the order over the next few days. “At this point we’re reviewing our options and deciding what we’re going to be doing going forward,” Ghazarian said.
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