Following news that the US Department of Justice (DoJ) had requested a hosting company (DreamHost) to provide the IP addresses of visitors to a website used to organise anti-Trump inauguration protests, the DoJ has modified and narrowed down its initial request for information from the company. In a reply to the court, the DoJ explains that, at the time of the initial request, it was not aware of several details regarding the website and extent of visitor data maintained by DreamHost, and that it ‘has no interest in records related to the 1.3 million IP addresses that are mentioned in DreamHost’s numerous press releases and opposition brief’. In the light of this new information, the DoJ modified its request to state, among others, that: ‘DreamHost should not disclose records that constitute HTTP request and error logs’. In reaction, the hosting company said that, now, ‘visitors’ IP addresses are largely safe’, but that it goes ahead with its filling against the request, as ‘there are still a few issues we consider to be problematic’.
Privacy and data protection are two interrelated Internet governance issues. Data protection is a legal mechanism that ensures privacy. Privacy is usually defined as the right of any citizen to control their own personal information and to decide about it (to disclose information or not). Privacy is a fundamental human right. It is recognised in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and in many other international and regional human rights conventions. The July 2015 appointment of the first UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Privacy in the Digital Age reflects the rising importance of privacy in global digital policy, and the recognition of the need to address privacy rights issues the the global, as well as national levels.
Several international instruments guarantee the right to freedom of expression. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirms that this right includes the freedom to hold opinion without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas. The Internet, with the opportunity it offers people to express themselves, is seen as an enabler of the exercise of this particular human right. Although these freedoms are guaranteed in global instruments and in national constitutions, in some countries freedom of expression is often curtailed through online censorship or filtering mechanisms, imposed by states, often for political reasons.