Just as the United States’ Congress has approved a law to better protect civil liberties by limiting the government’s ability to access people’s e-mails, the country’s supreme court has come out with a decision that significantly expands the FBI’s hacking power.
The US Supreme Court just announced that it had decided in favor of a rule change, allowing judges to issue search warrants, not only for computers located in their jurisdiction but in any jurisdiction. The new rules have been transmitted to Congress, which is expected to promulgate them without modifications.
Critics, including privacy advocacy groups and technology companies like Google, argue that this change vastly expands the FBI’s and other domestic agencies’ powers and allow them to hack into any computer networks on the basis of a single warrant. This goes against people’s right against unlawful search and seizure guaranteed by the Constitution, according to privacy groups.
Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon is another critic of the SCOTUS decision and has vowed to introduce legislation to reverse it. He explained:
Under the proposed rules, the government would now be able to obtain a single warrant to access and search thousands or millions of computers at once; and the vast majority of the affected computers would belong to the victims, not the perpetrators, of a cybercrime.
The Justice Department denies this is the case though and tried to minimize the Supreme Court’s decision, calling it a minor modification and claiming that the changes don’t authorize anything not permitted by law already.
It’s clear this debate will not be settled with this current decision, especially as more and more of our lives are taking place online and as governments around the world try to get a stronger and stronger hold on the internet.