Court orders web hosting company to turn over visitor data on anti-Trump site

There are limitations on the search warrant, but the company worries about violations of privacy 

Mythili Sampathkumar
New York
Thursday 24 August 2017 22:46
A US court has ruled that a web hosting company must turn over data on visitors to an anti-Trump website
A US court has ruled that a web hosting company must turn over data on visitors to an anti-Trump website

A Washington DC court has ordered a company to turn over records of visitors to an anti-Donald Trump website.

Chief Judge Robert Morin of the Superior Court of DC has said the Department of Justice can follow through on a search warrant for web hosting company DreamHost's site.

The site was used to organise protests against Mr Trump on Inauguration Day, 20 January 2017, and authorities are looking for more information on the rioting that occurred that weekend.

Mr Morin had also ruled that the government must minimise data collected on innocent visitors to the site and any third parties that are involved with the site.

The search warrant also specifies that the government must disclose both the search and collections methods used as well as the names of the investigators involved in collection and search procedures.

The DOJ is required to present the data in two separate packages: one will data of innocent visitors and third party groups that will never be reviewed and one with data that appears to violate DC criminal code with regards to rioting and and an accompanying explanation has to how that data is evidence of a crime.

The government can begin collecting the data immediately, but reviewing it will have to wait until DreamHost decides whether it wants to repeal Mr Morin's ruling or not.

Prior to the ruling, DreamHost made the search warrant public and estimated that it involved 1.3 million visitors' IP data and other information that could qualify as a violation of the Privacy Protection Act.

Outside the courtroom a lawyer for DreamHost, Raymond Aghaian, said despite the search warrant limiting review to data that appears to violate riot criminal codes, the government being allowed to "see that information and identify who these political dissidents are is problematic".

"When it comes to sensitive First Amendment issues such as this one, it should not be the case where the government gets to rummage through material to determine whether something is valid or not," he added.

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