US Judges will soon be able to issue worldwide warrants

A minor change to US procedural rules on the issuing search warrants will allow federal judges to issue search warrants covering the world in cases that involves computers and networks.

After a push from the US Department of Justice, the Advisory Committee on the Rules of Criminal Procedure has proposed the change to the Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 41 that governs the issue of search warrants. The move doesn't have to be approved by Congress, nor the President.

Normally federal judges are prohibited from issuing search warrants outside of their district with few exceptions, but this change will expand those exceptions in cases involving computers and networks.

If approved, the change would allow the US government to obtain a warrant to conduct "remote access" searches of electronic storage media if the physical location of the media is "concealed through technological means," or to facilitate botnet investigations in certain circumstances.

In a blog post, Google took aim at the change, saying "the proposed amendment would likely end up being used by US authorities to directly search computers and devices around the world," and that the "implications of this expansion of warrant power are significant."

Google says the change "threatens to undermine the privacy rights and computer security of Internet users," and it should be an issue considered by the Congress and the President.

Gavel on court desk via ShutterStock

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