Our Concerns Regarding DC Superior Court Ruling In DreamHost Warrant Challenge
The i2Coalition has released a statement to the press expressing concern with DC Superior Court and Chief Judge Morin’s decision in DreamHost’s challenge to a warrant issued in July by the Department of Justice. This morning, Chief Judge Morin set out the broad parameters of an order requiring DreamHost to disclose information associated with the website “disruptj20.org.” The order will be prepared by the Department of Justice, subject to Chief Judge Morin’s approval.
In his decision, Chief Judge Morin ordered DreamHost to provide to the government virtually all data associated with the website “disruptj20.org.” This data will be reviewed by law enforcement, who will then determine which data is responsive to the government’s warrant. Data that is not responsive will be kept under seal, and a description of that data and those who reviewed it filed with the court, also under seal. This decision is a small modification of the “two-step” warrant process frequently used in matters where electronic information is part of an investigation.
The i2Coalition believes that the Court’s order does not meet enhanced standards that must be implemented to ensure that an individual’s rights of Free Association and Free Speech are not impacted by a government investigation. Further, the small modification made in the two-step process does not consider differences between the way web hosting companies store data and the data that is held by email providers. The i2Coalition has additional concerns about the government receiving virtually all data held by DreamHost based on the assurance from the government that they will not, absent further authorization from the Court, use or review data from “innocent parties” who do not fall within the criminal investigation.
“The i2Coalition appreciates the thought Chief Judge Morin put into his decision. However, we disagree with substantial aspects of it. The decision fails to take into account the vast quantity of information that will be provided by DreamHost. Chief Judge Morin’s decision, in essence, requires DreamHost to give the Department of Justice a “master key” to its apartment building, trusting that the Department of Justice will ignore and not use information that may be interesting to them, but not currently relevant. Not only does this decision impact fundamental Constitutional rights, it will chill businesses across the country. This will likely have an immediate impact on our member’s business, by increasing their costs, undermining consumer trust in the U.S. Internet industry, and casting doubt on the operation of both the First and Fourth Amendments as applied to our digital lives.” said David Snead, i2Coalition Co-Founder, Board, and Policy Chair.