A controversial rule which is likely to be introduced by the Supreme Court by May 1st, will give US judges the ability to issue search warrants to the law enforcement agencies which contain the power to access computers in any jurisdiction, even overseas.
Magistrate judges at the moment can only order searches within the jurisdiction of the court, of which even that is limited to some few counties.
The Department of Justice is pushing for the change, and described it as a procedural change which was needed in modernizing criminal code for digital age. They said they would not permit searches and seizures which are already not legal.
Tech companies including Google, and other civil liberty groups, such the American Civil Liberties Union and Access Now, argue that the change would expand how the FBI hacks into computer networks. They argue it could be a violation of the US Constitution against unreasonable searches and seizures.
If the Supreme Court pass the change, the ruling would have to be passed in both chambers of Congress, which at the moment is involved in a gridlock due to the U.S Presidential election.
The proposed change is to the Rule 41 of the federal rules of criminal procedure, and if passed by the Supreme Court, Congress would have until December 1 to amend the change to the Rule.
The issue has been at the forefront for several years now, but the effort to widen the warrant jurisdiction has not been given the level of attention that other cases such as the recent government versus tech companies has gotten. An example is the FBI standoff with Apple.
Sen Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, said he was going to mobilize opposition to the Rule 41 update. People close to what he is planning say the announcement that he is going to work on legislation which blocks the changes planned for the rule should be expected soon. That is if the Rule changes earn approval from the Supreme Court.
“This rule change could potentially allow federal investigators to use one warrant to access millions of computers, and it would treat the victims of the hack the same as the hacker himself,” Wyden said during a speech last month at a digital rights conference in San Francisco.