After web hosting provider DreamHost pressed the U.S. government in superior court over a warrant to access more than 1.3 million IP records of a website, the Justice Department backed off its request and modified the warrant to narrow its scope.
“The Warrant – like the criminal investigation – is singularly focused on criminal activity,” according to a brief filed with the court by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Washington and published by The Hill. “It will not be used for any other purpose.”
DreamHost had argued last week in a blog post that the data requested by the government in its investigation of disruptj20.org, a site that was used to coordinate the massive anti-Trump protest that occurred on Inauguration Day, "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."
After its bid that the government narrow the scope of its request was rebuffed, DreamHost petitioned a superior court in D.C. to deny the government's motion because it violates both the Fourth Amendment and the Privacy Protection Act (PPA).
According to the Justice Department brief filed Monday, “what the government did not know when it obtained the Warrant – what it could not have reasonably known – was the extent of visitor data maintained by DreamHost that extends beyond the government's singular locus in this case of investigating the planning, organization, and participation in the January 20, 2017 riot.”
DreamHost called the government's concession, “a huge win for internet privacy,” saying it “absolutely appreciate[s] the DOJ's willingness to look at and reconsider both the scope and the depth of their original request for records. That's all we asked them to do in the first place, honestly.”
But, the company said, the matter is not settled. “We're not done,” a Tuesday blog post read. “Much of the DOJ's original demand for information is still in place, and there are still a few issues that we consider to be problematic for a number of reasons.”
The company said it is “moving forward with a filing to address the remaining First and Fourth Amendment issues raised by this warrant,” which it will voice during a Thursday hearing in superior court.