The Supreme Court approved a rule change proposed by the Department of Justice (DOJ) on Thursday, allowing federal magistrate judges to issue search warrants of computer networks based outside of their jurisdiction.
DOJ argues that modification to “rule 41” is needed in order to prosecute individuals suspected of committing cyber crimes, whose identities are often concealed.
Tech companies, such as Google parent-owner Alphabet, as well as civil liberty advocates like the ACLU and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) oppose the expansion of government reach in this area, arguing that it violates the Fourth Amendment.
“Under the proposed rules, the government would now be able to obtain a single warrant to access and search thousands or millions of computers at once,” said Sen. Wyden, member of the Select Committee on Intelligence. “The vast majority of the affected computers would belong to the victims, not the perpetrators, of a cyber crime.”
“Rule 41” will now be sent to Congress, which has until Dec. 1 to either reject or modify the changes. Being an election year, however, no legislative action is expected, although Wyden has vowed to fight against it.
Last week, district judges in Oklahoma and Massachusetts invalidated a 2015 search warrant issued by a federal magistrate in Virginia which allowed the FBI to access computer hard drives of suspected child-pornography users nationwide.
Evidence obtained by the government on each of the suspects’ computers in those states will be thrown out, leaving prosecutors will little else to prove their case.
[Reuters] [The Guardian]