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Looking at the constitutionality of DOJ request for LA-based tech company’s data on anti-Trump protesters

Anti-Donald Trump protesters demonstrate on Inauguration Day, Friday, Jan. 20, 2017.
Anti-Donald Trump protesters demonstrate on Inauguration Day, Friday, Jan. 20, 2017.
Courtesy of Jonas Anderson

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A tech firm based in Los Angeles is fighting back against the U.S. Department of Justice, which has demanded it turn over more than 1.3 million IP addresses for people who visited a website that was used to organize anti-Trump protests during his inauguration.

Dreamhost, a company that hosts websites and sells domain names, made the DOJ request public on Monday, saying that it was vast overreach on the part of the feds. In addition to the IP addresses of people who visited, Dreamhost says the request also asks for emails between organizers and interested parties, any deleted files, and even subscriber information. There are also concerns about a potential violation of First Amendment free speech rights if fear of the government having private information about their identity would stop people from visiting the website.

Prosecutors for the feds have argued in court that the DOJ request is completely within the confines of the constitution. that the website was used to help organize a violent riot, referencing protests on Inauguration Day in January that led to property damage and six cops being injured, and that Dreamhost’s “it’s too broad” reasoning was not sufficient to reject the DOJ request.

Do you think the DOJ is within its rights to request this information or do you see it as an overreach? What, if any, free speech or privacy issues do you see arising?

We reached out to DreamHost, which declined to join us for an interview.


Alan Butler, senior counsel for the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC)

Orin Kerr, professor of law at the George Washington University; he’ll be a professor at USC’s Gould School of Law in January