US search engine giant Google has warned against increasing the government's powers for infiltrating computer systems around the world, saying it would open a number of "monumental" constitutional issues.
Google released a tough-sounding statement against the Department Justice (DoJ) proposal to make it easier for the courts to issue search warrants to seize electronic data ‘remotely’ from anywhere in the world.
Efforts to rewrite federal regulations, presently encoded in a government provision known as Rule 41,"raises a number of monumental and highly complex constitutional, legal, and geopolitical concerns that should be left to Congress to decide," wrote Richard Salgado, Google's director for law enforcement and information security.
Under Rule 41, the judge that authorizes the computer tap must be situated in the same district as the computer under investigation. The new proposal would allow the FBI to operate beyond the immediate judicial area of the presiding judge.
Google warned in its statement that if the DoJ gets its way, the FBI will be authorized to hack into servers regardless of their geopolitical location, thus giving the US government unrestrained access to endless amounts of personal data around the globe.
As Google explains it, such covert invasions of privacy, “may take place anywhere in the world. This concern is not theoretical. ... [T]he nature of today’s technology is such that warrants issued under the proposed amendment will in many cases end up authorizing the government to conduct searches outside the United States.”
The issue is raising serious concerns for civil watchdog groups, like the American Civil Liberties Union, who fear the government - not only refusing to retreat in the aftermath of the 2013 Snowden revelations, which exposed the tentacles of the National Security Agency wrapped around a large swath of the planet - but is actually moving recklessly ahead with even more obtrusive methods.
“The government is seeking a troubling expansion of its power to surreptitiously hack into computers, including using malware,” the ACLU’s chief technologist, Christopher Soghoian, told the Guardian. “Although this proposal is cloaked in the garb of a minor procedural update, in reality it would be a major and substantive change that would be better addressed by Congress.”