(arsTechnica) — The US Department of Justice is backing down on its request to Web hosting service DreamHost to divulge the 1.3 million IP addresses that visited a Trump resistance site. The request was part of the government’s investigation into Inauguration Day rioting, which has already resulted in the indictment of 200 people. More are likely.
“The government has no interest in records relating to the 1.3 million IP addresses that are mentioned in DreamHost’s numerous press releases and Opposition brief,” federal prosecutors said in a new court filing concerning its investigation of the disruptj20.org site.
The government, in the court document, said it did not realize that its original warrant, (PDF) which is part of a federal grand jury investigation into Inauguration Day rioting, was so grand in scope.
“What the government did not know when it obtained the Warrant—what it could not have reasonably known—was the extent of visitor data maintained by DreamHost that extends beyond the government’s singular focus in this case of investigating the planning, organization, and participation in the January 20, 2017 riot,” the authorities said.
The government added that it was solely concerned with “a small and focused group of individuals” connected to the disruptj20.org site.
“The website was not just a means to publicly disseminate information (as many websites are designed to do), but was also used to coordinate and to privately communicate among a focused group of people whose intent included planned violence,
” the government wrote in a court filing. The authorities added that “the site was even used to verify the identity of people in closely-held meetings that were not open to the media or public, where organizers required attendees to log-in to the website to prove their credentials.”
Los Angeles-based DreamHost claimed victory in its bid to beat back the government’s request for so much user data.
“We see this as a huge win for Internet privacy, and we absolutely appreciate the DOJ’s willingness to look at and reconsider both the scope and the depth of their original request for records. That’s all we asked them to do in the first place, honestly,” DreamHost said in a blog post.
Paul Alan Levy, a lawyer for Public Citizen, isn’t so sure. He represented site visitors who wished to keep their online surfing anonymous, and he doubts the Justice Department’s sincerity that it didn’t want records of everybody who visited the site. The original warrant (PDF) expressly demands “HTTP request and error logs.”
“Either they’re incompetent or they’re disingenuous,” Levy said in a telephone interview.
The protest site is registered to a group calling itself “The Movement” in Washington, DC. It did not immediately respond for comment.