Privacy advocates call warrant for IP addresses of 1.3 million people who visited inauguration protest website an fishing expedition
The US government is seeking to unmask every person who visited an anti-Trump website in is an fishing expedition for dissidents.
The warrant appears to be an escalation of the Department of Justices (DoJ) campaign against anti-Trump activities, including the harsh prosecution of inauguration day protesters.
On 17 July, the DoJ served a website-hosting company, DreamHost, with a search warrant for each and every bit of information it owned which was related to a website which was used to coordinate protests during Donald Trumps inauguration. The warrant covers the people who own and run the site, but also seeks to get the IP addresses of 1.3 million people who visited it, as well as the date and time of the visit and information about what browser or operating system they employed.
The website, www.disruptj20.org, was utilized to coordinate protests and civil disobedience on 20 January, when Trump was inaugurated.
This case and this particular warrant are prosecutorial overreach with a department of justice under [Attorney General Jeff] Sessions, said Chris Ghazarian, general counsel for DreamHost. You should be concerned for visiting a website that anybody should be targeted.
The warrant was made public Monday, when DreamHost announced its plans to challenge the government in court. The DoJ declined to comment. A hearing is scheduled for Friday.
The government has aggressively prosecuted activists detained during the 20 January protests in Washington DC. In April, the US attorneys office in Washington DC filed a single indictment charging over 217 people with identical crimes, including felony rioting.
Ghazarian said that DreamHost provided the authorities when it obtained a grand jury subpoena after the protests happened. However, the government came back in July with the broader search warrant.
Were a gatekeeper between the authorities and tens of thousands of people who visited the website and the website, said Ghazarian. We want to keep them protected.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation, which has been advising DreamHost, characterized the warrant as unconstitutional and a fishing expedition.
I cant conceive of a justification other than casting your net attorney Mark Rumold told the Guardian.
Logs of IP addresses dont uniquely identify users, but they link back to specific addresses if no tools are utilised to mask it.
What they would be getting is a list of everyone who has ever been interested in seeing what went on in the protests or attending those protests and thats the aspect. Its a step after you’ve got the list to join the IP address to someones identity, he said.
While the content of a site is illegal such as pirated movies or child abuse imagery wide-reaching warrants for user data are occasionally issued, but speech is seldom prohibited.
This [the website] is first amendment advocacy advocacy’s sort promote and the first amendment was created to protect, Rumold added. Frankly Im glad DreamHost is currently pushing back on it.
Its not the first time that the US government has sought to unmask people protesting against Trump or his policies.
In March this year, Customs and Border Protection (CBP), a branch of the homeland security department, ordered Twitter to deliver the phone number, mailing addresses and IP addresses associated with @ALT_USCIS, an account which purported to convey the views of dissenters within the government.
The accounts, whose username is a reference to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services, is one of dozens of Twitter accounts established after Trump was inaugurated. The unverified accounts claimed to provide an uncensored view of civil servants who disagreed with Trumps policies.
To protect the identity of the person running the accounts, Twitter launched a lawsuit against the Trump administration, arguing that it would have a grave chilling effect on the address of that account in particular and the many other alternative agency accounts which have been made to voice dissent to government policies.
After public outcry over the administrations overreach, CBP dropped the request.