Feds can search and seize your P2P files, without a warrant

In a ruling last week, authorities don’t need a search warrant to search and seize your peer-to-peer (P2P) files, says a Nevada court.  In last weeks ruling of United States vs. Borowy (.PDF), where an FBI agent downloaded seven files, four of which contained child pornography, from the defendant, using LimeWire, according to wired.com.

Borowy said he enabled a feature that disables sharing of his files, but for some reason, the FBI agent was able to access approximately 240 files.  Four of the seven files downloaded by the FBI agent contained child pornography, all done so without a search warrant.  The agent used the “browse host” feature in LimeWire, where a user can search by someone's IP to access their shared files.

The court noted that Borowy “was clearly aware that LimeWire was a file-sharing program that would allow the public at large to access files in his shared folder unless he took steps to avoid it.”

Agents were able to find the images while searching for red-flagged words, using proprietary software that verifies hash marks of files, in this case “Lolitaguy” which is a common search term related to child pornography.  Upon a full search warrant investigation, forensic investigators found over 600 images and 75 videos containing child pornography.

Borowy was sentenced to 45 months in prison after pleading guilty to child pornography charges. 

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59 Comments

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I am not defending this perv. I have children and if anyone hurt or exploited them I would sacrifice my freedom to put a hurting on them. My only thought on this is I agree that the government have a right to go after someone when they suspect that a law have been broken. But, But, I don't agree that they don't need a warrant under the Patriot Act. Since they scanned this guys computer and found evidence of child porn then they should be required to go out and get a warrant. They should then be made to prove that I intended to download and possess child porn. I use P2P and I have downloaded files thinking it was one thing and it turns out to be something else. What if I had ms-configured my client and now the FBI is kicking down my door because I have (unbeknown) to me child porn on my machine?

waldenasta said,
But, But, I don't agree that they don't need a warrant under the Patriot Act. Since they scanned this guys computer and found evidence of child porn then they should be required to go out and get a warrant. They should then be made to prove that I intended to download and possess child porn.
Thats where the confusion lies. They did not scan his computer so to speak.....they discovered he was (unknown to him at the time, as he misconfigured his client) sharing child porn, and they discovered it. Thats like saying the MPAA is not allowed to fine you or go after you in court for downloading movies illegally, because they would have had to scan your computer to find it....simply not true., he shared the files publicly and got caught. There is no reason the FBI should have to get a warrant to pin charges on a person who committed an illegal act in public.

Edited by Nagisan, Feb 23 2010, 9:08pm :

Nagisan said,
Thats where the confusion lies. They did not scan his computer so to speak.....they discovered he was (unknown to him at the time, as he misconfigured his client) sharing child porn, and they discovered it. Thats like saying the MPAA is not allowed to fine you or go after you in court for downloading movies illegally, because they would have had to scan your computer to find it....simply not true., he shared the files publicly and got caught. There is no reason the FBI should have to get a warrant to pin charges on a person who committed an illegal act in public.

I had not thought of it that way. Well said.

Edited by waldenasta, Feb 24 2010, 3:57am :

First they came for the communists, and I did not speak outâ€"because I was not a communist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak outâ€"because I was not a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak outâ€"because I was not a Jew;
Then they came for meâ€"and there was no one left to speak out for me.

[quote=boho said,]First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out

I don't think the Jews were downloading child pron. Criminals, sickos, thieves (filthy), and all sorts of corrupt individuals get away with too much in this country because they use the laws meant to protect the just to protect their evil ways.

BlackSteyrAug said,
Who still uses Limewire?
A lot of people sadly.

http://www.alexa.com/siteinfo/limewire.com

Down 9% in last three months.

Edited by war, Feb 24 2010, 9:36pm :

This news story is BS. It's got nothing to do with needing a warrant or not. This person was freely sharing his files to anybody on the internet using his Limewire client. The guy basically had an open invitation for all and sundry to access his files. He may have thought he'd turned off the sharing feature, but clearly he did not.

TCLN Ryster said,
This news story is BS. It's got nothing to do with needing a warrant or not. This person was freely sharing his files to anybody on the internet using his Limewire client. The guy basically had an open invitation for all and sundry to access his files. He may have thought he'd turned off the sharing feature, but clearly he did not.
Bingo. Seems most of the "news stories" on neowin are total BS!

It's disgusting, yes, but knowing how the government works, this will eventually be expanded to cover a broader scope of things under the guise of "law and order". The government wants more control and with each passing day they claim more and more of it.

Edited by iamwhoiam, Feb 23 2010, 10:20am :

Well, I'm glad they busted the perv; but I do hope they remember that they're only allowed to do that on IP's located in the US. Other countries would take rather a dimmer view of such searches without warrants...

This article is very sensationalist. Of course the feds can search your P2P files... *ANYBODY* can search your P2P files on networks like Limewire. It's the whole point of the network.

Think of it this way: You have a yard outside of your house, with no fence and just a patch of grass outlining your property. If you have a pile of illegal weapons on your lawn do the police have no right to look at them, verify they're real firearms and come back with a warrant to search the rest of your house?

I think the title is misleading. From what I can read, the P2P client used by the guy was publishing info about his files, using his IP adress. I don'T see why a warrant would be needed in this case if all the info is public. It falls more into the debate of "how much privacy you have on the internet" than anything else.

Patchou said,
I think the title is misleading. From what I can read, the P2P client used by the guy was publishing info about his files, using his IP adress. I don'T see why a warrant would be needed in this case if all the info is public. It falls more into the debate of "how much privacy you have on the internet" than anything else.
Neowin.net gets off on misleading titles. Seems the only way their articles get noticed.

I think some people are missing the point. Sure, in this particular circumstance the guy deserved to be caught. Read the title of the article again. The FBI can search and seize any of your property without a warrant. You can be arrested and held indefinitely without being charged. Our rights are gone, has no one noticed?

Yochanan said,
I think some people are missing the point. Sure, in this particular circumstance the guy deserved to be caught. Read the title of the article again. The FBI can search and seize any of your property without a warrant. You can be arrested and held indefinitely without being charged. Our rights are gone, has no one noticed?

Did you read the article? The guy was sharing his files in a public forum. He might as well have done it in a public park for all to see.

And to the gentleman who posted about the wiretap crap. Think about it. In your home you are having a private two way communication where no one by normal means can hear you. HOWEVER if you're yammering away on your cell phone in a coffee shop full of people about sharing kiddie porn and where your house is, you better expect the FBI to be waiting there with open arms.

Common sense.

Edited by AnalogRival, Feb 23 2010, 4:37am : Typos

I wish they would spend as much time actually catch the mofos who actually produce child pornography, as they do tracking the nonces who consume it.

Wait, so the agent essentially "downloaded" the files from the other person due to misconfiguration of the other persons client, and people are saying this may be a slippery slope?

So if they see a crime being committed, they are no longer allowed to do anything about it without first reporting the crime?

When they start illegally accessing your computer (that is, you do not have any data on your computer shared outside of your local network, but they hack into your LAN and find illegal items), then we can bring this up as a news story...

No offense at all to the person who posted the story, in my opinion something like the above is common sense. When you are sharing files with the public, the FBI should be able to make a case off what they find. Its like creating a website that hosts child porn and requires a password to log in, then trying to say its illegal for the FBI to make a case when you mis-configured the server and allowed anyone to access the site.

Nagisan said,
Wait, so the agent essentially "downloaded" the files from the other person due to misconfiguration of the other persons client, and people are saying this may be a slippery slope?

So if they see a crime being committed, they are no longer allowed to do anything about it without first reporting the crime?

When they start illegally accessing your computer (that is, you do not have any data on your computer shared outside of your local network, but they hack into your LAN and find illegal items), then we can bring this up as a news story...

No offense at all to the person who posted the story, in my opinion something like the above is common sense. When you are sharing files with the public, the FBI should be able to make a case off what they find. Its like creating a website that hosts child porn and requires a password to log in, then trying to say its illegal for the FBI to make a case when you mis-configured the server and allowed anyone to access the site.

I think only 1 person has said it's slipper slope, and to the author of the story there's no mention of anything like that - just a news post on what happened.

You're right - it's total common sense.

Tarrant64 said,
I think only 1 person has said it's slipper slope, and to the author of the story there's no mention of anything like that - just a news post on what happened.

You're right - it's total common sense.

I know, I should have hit reply to the person who said it was a slippery slope, I did not mean for my comment to seem like I was talking about the OP in any way, as I fully agree with what had happened. The guy publicly shared some files, an FBI agent found child porn among those files, and he got jail time.....perfectly normal/right IMO.

greatestfall said,
I wasn't aware people still used Limewire. What a horrible program.

I wonder if they have a stat around somewhere of how many people have been in trouble legally by app (including torrent apps).

greatestfall said,
I wasn't aware people still used Limewire. What a horrible program.

+1

Glad this guy is going away, not long enough though.

Not too happy about them searching his files, but it wasn't exactly invasive of them and anyone else could browse them just as easily if they tried.

Edited by pasty2k2, Feb 22 2010, 11:51pm :

ozzy76 said,
If you're going to use P2P, then turn off the upload for pete's sake and use Peerblock.
And you really think peerblock does much. Got news for you, who do you think controls the lists. ;)

This is a good and fair ruling. It feels refreshing to be able to say that lately as the court has had some hair brained decisions (like requiring courts to evidence obtained without a warrant unless some small test is failed).

Therre is, and should not be, any expectation of privacy in the open public. If you are carrying illegal drugs on you and wearing see through pants you don't have any expectation of privacy (a bad example, but the point is the same). Just as much as opening the door to your home (in this case computer) to anyone who wants to enter removes your expectation of privacy.

Sometimes the courts work :)

As happy as I am this guy is going to jail, I'm not very happy about the Government searching my computer, trying to convict me of a crime.

Hendrick said,
As happy as I am this guy is going to jail, I'm not very happy about the Government searching my computer, trying to convict me of a crime.

But, you're happy about everyone else searching your PC if you have a P2P app like Limewire installed, right? The problem was that there was no "trying". The offender committed a crime, and got caught through P2P. You make it sound like he was framed.

xiphi said,

But, you're happy about everyone else searching your PC if you have a P2P app like Limewire installed, right? The problem was that there was no "trying". The offender committed a crime, and got caught through P2P. You make it sound like he was framed.

+1

I was thinking that too - not cool searching through my stuff but from the sound of it it was available to anyone looking for it. Not like they came into his home and browsed the computer while being physically there.

Hendrick said,
As happy as I am this guy is going to jail, I'm not very happy about the Government searching my computer, trying to convict me of a crime.
Then you should be happy to know the Government is not searching your computer, they were browsing files this guy was sharing with the public (unintentionally but that is irrelevant), they had every right to build a case off of it.

Edited by Nagisan, Feb 22 2010, 11:09pm :

Hendrick said,
As happy as I am this guy is going to jail, I'm not very happy about the Government searching my computer, trying to convict me of a crime.

The information was available to everyone. While the guy didn't share the files he didn't hide the files he had in his possession. You might as well complain about the Government reading your comments on Neowin.

Article:
Borowy said he enabled a feature that disables sharing of his files, but for some reason, the FBI agent was able to access approximately 240 files.

Seems he tried to hide the files, yet they were found anyways. They weren't publicly available.

Hendrick said,

Seems he tried to hide the files, yet they were found anyways. They weren't publicly available.

If one person was able to find them by connecting to his computer through a P2P network, then others would be able to find them as well, therefore IMHO they were public.

Hendrick said,

Seems he tried to hide the files, yet they were found anyways. They weren't publicly available.

He claims he tried to hide them, but offered no proof and thus he pleaded guilty.

So yeah he made them public.

billyea said,
The slope feels a bit slippery here...

You do know that the slippery slope argument is a(n informal) logical fallacy, right?

I was going to object to the whole "without a warrant" thing until I finished reading. Good for them. If anyone can get to it I say screw the warrant. I wonder now though if there should be some kind of warning or notice if you are being monitored for legal purposes, you know?

Might as well wiretap my phone because I didn't enable the feature for private and anonymous phone chats.

Northgrove said,
Sounds good now, and soon enough, this will be brought to other sorts of illegal files for convenience's sake too. :)
And?

If you are willingly sharing your files, then you have no reasonable expect to privacy on them. Whether kiddie porn or copies of Windows or movies.

markjensen said,
And?

If you are willingly sharing your files, then you have no reasonable expect to privacy on them. Whether kiddie porn or copies of Windows or movies.
Sharing is caring. ;)

0V3RS1GHT said,
Owned.

I'm not defending this guy, but if anyone here is unhappy about the FBI, don't forget that if you are an American taxpayer YOU are their boss. The FBI needs to remember who they work for, instead of treating us like livestock. That goes for any government agency... *we* own them, don't forget who they get their paycheck from!

Edited by toadeater, Feb 23 2010, 12:12am :

toadeater said,

I'm not defending this guy, but if anyone here is unhappy about the FBI, don't forget that if you are an American taxpayer YOU are their boss. The FBI needs to remember who they work for, instead of treating us like livestock. That goes for any government agency... *we* own them, don't forget who they get their paycheck from!

Ummm... Are you saying that if you are a taxpayer you are exempt from the law? If so, that tops the list of world's worst logic.

And the fact that this was kiddie porn and you feel somewhat inclined to side against the FBI is disturbing (despite your claim that you are not defending them, as you rail against the FBI 'man')

0V3RS1GHT said,
Owned.

SO TRUE! My old boss just went to federal prison for the same thing, and almost identical situation. I am frankly glad, because that was pure karma.

Amodin said,

SO TRUE! My old boss just went to federal prison for the same thing, and almost identical situation. I am frankly glad, because that was pure karma.

I am SO sick of people calling out the wrong example of karma. What happened to Borowy was justice, not karma.

Regardless, the guy was asking for it; for supporting the exploitation of children.


Is this case going to change something in the download/upload community? Is this case going to allow the FBI to go into anyones pc (mind you, just the unguarded share folder) without warrants?