When it comes to data, there is always a concern for privacy and how far a company will go to protect that for a consumer. This has always been a large topic but came to a bigger stage when Apple was pressed to unlock a device and refused. In the end, Apple prevailed, with the FBI finding another means of unlocking the iPhone.
It appears that for the past several months, DreamHost, a web host that has provided its services for two decades, has been working with the Department of Justice (DOJ) in regards to one of its clients. The site in question, disruptj20.org, is a website that is a political organization with the aim of protesting and disrupting events during the Donald Trump's presidential run. To be more clear, the firm was asked to "provide all information available to us about this website, its owner, and, more importantly, its visitors".
Now, this kind of occurrence isn't anything new, with many different types of organizations requesting private information from the service provider and it has its own legal department that reviews these requests. In the case of the aforementioned inquiry by the DOJ, DreamHost states that the request is a "highly untargeted demand that chills free association and the right of free speech afforded by the Constitution". The DOJ is demanding that it relinquish 1.3 million visitors' IP addresses, along with contact information, email content, photos, and more. In order to maintain transparency, the host has contacted the client, informing them of the request.
Rather than handing over the information, DreamHost challenged, which has resulted in the filing of a motion by the DOJ, asking for an "order to compel DreamHost to produce the records." Naturally, the company has filed legal arguments in opposition to the request. This court hearing will occur on August 18.
DreamHost ends with a statement on their blog:
"The internet was founded — and continues to survive, in the main — on its democratizing ability to facilitate a free exchange of ideas. Internet users have a reasonable expectation that they will not get swept up in criminal investigations simply by exercising their right to political speech against the government. We intend to take whatever steps are necessary to support and shield these users from what is, in our view, a very unfocused search and an unlawful request for their personal information."
In an age where data privacy is a top concern, it is clear where DreamHost stands. Now, the firm will be truly tested as it heads to court later this week.