The FBI and other security agencies can now search computers with a single search warrant because of a controversial Rule 41 that came into effect last Thursday.
The expanded search authorization, known as ‘Rule 41,’ makes it easy for the FBI to breach computers legally during investigations. Until now, the law enforcement agencies could only search computers within the district where the warrant is issued, typically within the state.
The legal operation of government hacking attempts in the past has been a contentious topic, such as ‘playpen‘ investigation in which government placed tracker programs in suspects’ computers allege to involve in pedophilia across the country. However, the defendants were able to challenge their arrests successfully on the basis that they lived outside the covered area described in the warrant.
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Civil liberties groups have notified that the Rule-41 would dangerously expand the government’s surveillance power and creates new risks related to forum shopping – seeking warrants from any district and judge would most likely to grant them.
The controversy led to bipartisan groups within the lawmaking authorities and halted the new Rule 41 powers until the Congress reading. On Wednesday, Senator Chris Coons (D-Del) announced a call for a voice vote to pass a bill delaying Rule 41. However, the measure lacked support in the House.
A spokesman from the EFF, which led the opposition to the rule change, says that the Congress can still amend or halt the bill even if it goes into effect.
Rule-41 presented for a regular review of criminal procedure in a conference of federal judges, and after weighing the rule and a public comment period, the conference submitted the suggested rule change to the Supreme Court, which can come into effect on Dec. 1 upon approval.
Opposition to Rule-41 have arguments that are not some housekeeping measure that should ordinarily be addressed by the judicial conference, but it would significantly affect how police conduct its search and seizure, and that it may violate the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution.
The debate over Rule-41 will likely to continue under the forthcoming Presidency of Donal Trump.