FBI Gets Some New Hacking Power

The United States Supreme Court recently approved of new changes, coming in December later this year, that will impact the way that the FBI hacks into computers. Under previous rules, an investigator needed to know first where a computer was in order to then obtain a warrant that grants permission to search the computer remotely. But under the new laws, they will be allowed to search the computer regardless of jurisdiction.


The new rules are going to allow any judge or magistrate to issue a warrant to authorities that would grant them the permission to search or seize an electronic device even if they don't know where it is. Not everyone is happy about the changes. “Whatever euphemism the FBI uses to describe it – whether they call it a 'remote access search' or a 'network investigative technique' – what we're talking about is government hacking, and this obscure rule change would authorize a whole lot more of it,” according to Kevin Bankston who is a director of the Open Technology Institute.


Another critic of the move, Ahmed Ghappour who is a visiting professor at University of California Hastings Law School, says that these new changes are possibly the biggest expansion of extraterritorial surveillance power since the FBI's inception. There is still a chance for change though seeing as Congress has the opportunity to still modify or reject the new changes. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore) has already said that he plans to introduce legislation which will seek to reverse the amendments. “These amendments will have significant consequences for Americans' privacy and the scope of the government's powers to conduct remote surveillance and searches of electronic devices,” said Wyden on the matter.


Previously, a judge was traditionally required to issue warrants only within their jurisdiction. But under the new rules they will be able to go beyond their territory; they'll be able to hack into any computer in the world. The Justice department has unsurprisingly supported the new changes and defended the move under the justification of changing technology. 


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