HideTechdirt is off for the long weekend! Looking for something to read instead? Check out our new Working Futures anthology »
HideTechdirt is off for the long weekend! Looking for something to read instead? Check out our new Working Futures anthology »

Government Drops Its Demand For Data On 6,000 Facebook Users

from the sunlight-disinfectant dept

It's amazing what effect a little public scrutiny has on government overreach. In the wake of inauguration day protests, the DOJ started fishing for information from internet service providers. First, it wanted info on all 1.2 million visitors of a protest website hosted by DreamHost. After a few months of bad publicity and legal wrangling, the DOJ was finally forced to severely restrict its demands for site visitor data.

Things went no better with the warrants served to Facebook. These demanded a long list of personal information and communications from three targeted accounts, along with the names of 6,000 Facebook users who had interacted with the protest site's Facebook page. Shortly before oral arguments were to be heard in the Washington DC court, the DOJ dropped its gag order.

The last minute removal of the gag order appears to have been done to avoid the establishment of unfavorable precedent. It looks like the government perhaps has further concerns about precedential limitations on warrants served to service providers. As Kate Conger reports for Engadget, the DOJ has decided to walk away from this particular warrant challenge.

In a court hearing today, the Department of Justice dropped its request for the names of an estimated 6,000 people who “liked” a Facebook page about an Inauguration Day protest, the American Civil Liberties Union said. The ACLU challenged several warrants related to protests against President Trump’s inauguration on Friday, one of which included the search, claiming they were over-broad.

The ACLU notes the judge seemed sympathetic to allegations of overreach. In response, the government has apparently reduced its demands to info from two arrested protestors' accounts and further limited the date range from which data is sought.

This isn't a good look for the government. Dropping demands before an order has been issued indicates the DOJ had some idea its demands were too broad. It also shows the government will make concessions, rather than risk adverse rulings.

Then there's the whole issue of seeking personal information on protesters. This sort of thing creates a very real chilling effect by threatening to turn over personal information to the same entity the protesters were protesting. Fortunately, the government has walked back most of its demands in both cases.

Filed Under: disruptj20, doj, inauguration, privacy, social media, warrant
Companies: aclu, facebook

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread

  1. icon
    Peter (profile), 19 Oct 2017 @ 2:06pm

    So they never were after any criminals, then

    All the judge asked for is for the government to narrow down the list to real suspects. If presenting their evidence and showing a suspect list is too much effort for the DOJ, one wonders what the real reason for the so called "investigation" might have been in the first place.

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter

Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Techdirt Gear
Show Now: Takedown
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads


Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.