DOJ Softens Warrant Requesting Info on Trump Protesters

August 23, 2017 - 3 minutes read

Since the tragedy at Charlottesville a couple weeks ago, the nation has had to deal with some ugly truths about itself. That kind of soul-searching and moral inventory is never easy, but it’s a lot more painful when the president is Donald Trump, who equivocates while denouncing hate groups and talks about the “alt-left,” a loaded label for the anti-racist groups that showed up to show the neo-Nazis, Confederate sympathizers, and Klan members that they were not afraid. Was this the president repeating things he heard from one of his favorite news sources, like maybe his pal Alex Jones? Does the president have a strategy in place for dealing with this so-called “alt-left”? That idea is chilling, but after reports of the Justice Department’s warrant requesting information on Trump protesters that organized for the inauguration, internet of things app developers are right to wonder if this administration is out to stifle or intimidate dissent.

Hosting service DreamHost revealed in a blog post last week that it has been locked into a legal battle with Jeff Session’s Department of Justice over an overreaching warrant asking for information on Trump protesters. Specifically, the Department of Justice was requesting information from the website disruptj20.org, an activist website with the goal of organizing mass protests and direct actions to shutdown Trump’s inauguration. The department demanded “all files” related to the website, which includes 1.3 million IP addresses, photos, email content, and contact information (including physical addresses). “In essence, the Search Warrant not only aims to identify the political dissidents of the current administration, but attempts to identify and understand what content each of these dissidents viewed on the website,” said DreamHost’s legal team. To Seattle IoT app developers┬áconcerned with browsing privacy, this kind of blatant overreach sets off all sorts of alarms.

Fortunately, it now appears that the Justice Department is narrowing the scope of its focus. While not admitting that anything was suspect about the original warrant, the Justice Department has agreed to modify the warrant and not request certain sensitive information, like HTTP logs associated with IP addresses. Still, the new filing still requests “all records or other information, pertaining to the Account,” which is asking for a lot. The Justice Department claims that it has no interest in peaceful protesters, but is instead looking for those who participated in planning riots. It is unclear how the new warrant would differentiate between information on peaceful dissidents and potentially criminal ones. Internet of things app developers eagerly await DreamHost’s next move.

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