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DOJ Seeks to Narrow DreamHost Data Seizure

The Justice Department has narrowed its request for information from web hosting company DreamHost, saying that is because the company has made public information the government did not previously know.

DOJ had obtained a search warrant for 1.3 million IP addresses of an anti-Trump protest web site, as well as contact information, email content, and photos of thousands of people who visited the site. DreamHost had refused and challenged the warrant in court.

DOJ alleges the site was used to organize a riot in D.C. on Inauguration Day (Jan. 20).

Computer companies and others had argued the warrant was a "sweeping dragnet" and urged Justice to rethink the request.

In a filing in a D.C. court this week in response to DreamHost's challenge of the warrant, DOJ the warrant is still reasonable and proper, but based on new information it got from DreamHost, it can be narrowed.

DOJ said it could not be narrowed before because "the government could not exclude from the scope of the Warrant what it did not know existed." In addition, DOJ said, "the government is focused on the criminal acts of the defendants their co-conspirators and not their political views...The government has no interest in seizing data from the Website that does not relate to this limited purpose."

DOJ asked the court to reject DreamHost's challenge to its authority to get the warrant and compel the company to produce the information.

The Computer & Communications Industry Association, whose members include Amazon, Facebook, Google, and eBay, was pleased with the move, but not entirely assuaged.

“We appreciate DOJ responding to the widespread concern that we and others voiced in regard to the overly broad scope of this warrant," said CCIA President Ed Black. "Nevertheless, we continue to be concerned about overreach in this and similar cases. Federal law enforcement officials should revisit policies regarding the issuance of warrants to online intermediaries to properly safeguard speech and privacy interests.”

John Eggerton
John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.