Here’s something you won’t like. Government Executive reported the Justice Department is one step closer to changing a rule that greenlights the FBI the ability to remotely gain access to your computer and conduct an “investigation” without your knowledge. They claim it is to make it easier to track the computer activity of suspected criminals.
That’s right, if you’re even suspected of being a criminal in the “land of the free” you can lose all rights to your digital privacy.
Government Executive states changes to Rule 41 were voted favorably last week by the Judicial Conference Advisory Committee on Criminal Rules. Rule 41 details the methods by which judges are able to grant search warrants for “electronic devices” and this latest step voted favorably by the Committee, “would let judges OK warrants to examine computers remotely anywhere as opposed to only those in their districts.”
This newest adjustment of the rule would also mean the FBI wouldn’t even have to tell you about the search ahead of time.
The rule itself would be an acknowledgement that remote access searches are valid without notice, without special justification. Notice is one of the essential procedural protections of the Fourth Amendment. Validating a rule that implies that notice will never happen does not comport with the Fourth Amendment.
Hopefully, readers already know, of course, the 4th Amendment largely prohibits “unreasonable search and seizure.”
So what’s reasonable? Should folks have no knowledge the FBI is snooping around their personal, digital life simply because they are deemed “suspects” for one reason or another, valid or otherwise? Without our knowledge, what’s to stop them from just cruising constantly through anyone’s information anytime they like, NSA style?
DefenseOne reports that the FBI is pushing for the change to the rule allegedly in order to keep up with the technological Joneses. The Bureau would also snag more intrusive means at its disposal, such as being able to install tracking software on one’s computer without telling you. They can do that if they even suspect you of anything – they can do whatever they like, apparently.
Obviously, privacy groups are very much against changing Rule 41 in such a manner. Google took a stand against it last week, as well, saying the change, “raises a number of monumental and highly complex constitutional, legal and geopolitical concerns that should be left to Congress to decide.”
The Justice Department responded by saying it was all just a misunderstanding, that the amendment had simply been “misread.” The Department urged that the proposed change to Rule 41, “would not authorize the government to undertake any search or seizure or use any remote search technique not already permitted under current law.”
Hey, that looks good on paper, anyway.
Still, there’s hope. The changes to Rule 41 have not been finalized as of yet. The proposal still needs to be considered by the Standing Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure – after that, the Supreme Court.
Gizmodo reports the changes could be put into action as soon as December, 2016, should they be approved.