The Justice Department is looking to remove restrictions on the FBI's ability to hack into and monitor computer systems everywhere by easing the requirements necessary for it to obtain a search warrant.
Currently, law enforcement agencies can only receive warrants authorizing computer searches if the physical location of the computer in question falls within the corresponding jurisdiction of the judge they are appealing to. If the computer is outside of the judge’s jurisdiction, a warrant is not usually granted.
Now, however, the Justice Department wants to change this limitation, which is called Rule 41. It has asked a judicial advisory committee to allow judges to grant search warrants and permit electronic surveillance regardless of where a computer is located – within or outside of the United States,
Here’s why, according to the National Journal, which reported on the story:
“Law-enforcement investigators are seeking the additional powers to better track and investigate criminals who use technology to conceal their identity and location, a practice that has become more common and sophisticated in recent years. Intelligence analysts, when given a warrant, can infiltrate computer networks and covertly install malicious software, or malware, that gives them the ability to control the targeted device and download its contents.”
The proposal has unsurprisingly upset many civil liberties advocates, who claim changing Rule 41 in this manner would potentially violate the Fourth Amendment, which protects Americans from unreasonable search and seizures by the government.