Imagine a world where a government could hack thousands of computers with a single warrant, computers possibly located anywhere in the world. Sound scary? Well, it could be about to happen. Which is why ExpressVPN is standing with the Electronic Frontier Foundation in urging the U.S. Congress to adopt legislation blocking the amendment of Rule 41.
What is Rule 41?
Rule 41 governs how federal judges grant warrants to law enforcement agencies conducting searches and seizures. Currently, the law is set up so that police or FBI looking to initiate a search must gain a warrant from a judge in the jurisdiction where the search is to take place.
The Department of Justice has proposed relaxing the jurisdiction rule under the following conditions:
- If someone disguises the location of his computer through “technological means” (i.e. Tor or a VPN service)
- If the investigation involves a botnet that has infected computers in more than five federal judicial districts
Why These Rule 41 Amendments Are Bad
The adjustments could pave the way for some dangerous legal practices. The first is forum shopping; wherein law enforcement seeks out a federal judge who they think might be more receptive to prosecution in a given case. It is generally frowned up in the legal profession, but that does not stop people — including federal law enforcement — from trying. Allowing investigators to choose from any federal jurisdiction in the country would make it easier than ever.
Also worrisome is the idea of giving law enforcement special dispensation when dealing with people who are concealing their computer’s location. It means that those concerned with Internet privacy could be unfairly impacted, as any precautions they take to protect their digital footprint would give the government justification to use different means to obtain a warrant.
Finally, judges would suddenly have the ability to write warrants authorizing government intrusion into hundreds or even thousands of computers. Some of these computers could be located outside U.S. borders. However, a beefed-up Rule 41 would overlook any local protections these computers might enjoy in favor of enforcing U.S. interests.
You Can Help Stop the Changes
Sign EFF’s petition! Lawmakers need to know that people want them to act. Make your voice heard and spread the news to your friends.
Have thoughts you want to share? Reply in the comments below!