Can the Government Demand Your Personal Information - Carlos Gamino

Business woman give business card for customer in coffee shop.

By Carlos Gamino

If you’re like most people, you assume that the websites you visit aren’t collecting too much data from you. Maybe you’ve entered your email address to subscribe to a newsletter, or maybe you’ve signed a petition by logging in to a website using Facebook… or maybe you’ve entered nothing and just browsed, assuming that you were doing so anonymously.

No matter what you think you’re providing websites when you visit, the fact is that all kinds of your personal information is let loose as soon as you log on to the internet. Your IP address (the unique numerical label assigned to every device connected to the internet), for one, shows what company you use to access the internet and where you’re located. When you consent to give a website data based on your Facebook or Google+ profile, they’re able to collect your email address, your public photos, and in many cases, even your telephone number and physical address.

So what would the government want with that information? It seems like it would be pretty useless.

But in mid-August, the Department of Justice requested the IP addresses, contact information, email content, and personal photos of 1.3 million people who used an anti-Trump website around the time of the 45th president’s inauguration. The provider that hosts the site, DreamHost, says that it’s been working with the DoJ for several months—but DreamHost believes the request goes too far under the Constitution.

The company addressed the DoJ’s warrant in a blog post, saying, “That information could be used to identify any individuals who used this site to exercise and express political speech protected under the Constitution’s First Amendment. That should be enough to set alarm bells off in anyone’s mind.”

Although DreamHost challenged the Department of Justice on its warrant, the government filed a motion in the Washington, D.C. Superior Court to ask for an order to compel the company to produce the records.

The Department of Justice claims that it wants the information to figure out who started a riot in Washington, D.C. on January 20—the day of the inauguration—but critics say that there was no riot; just overreacting police officers and exuberant protestors.

What Do You Think?

First, what do you think the government could do with that information, especially in light of the fact that the new “Voter Fraud Commission” wants voting history, party identification, and physical addresses for every voter in the U.S.?

Do you think the DoJ is overstepping its bounds by requesting personal information on more than 1.3 million people who used an anti-Trump website?

I’d love to hear your thoughts, so please, share them on my Facebook page or join the conversation on Twitter!

Carlos Gamino