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Dangerous Changes to Fed. R. Crim. P. 41

Hacking is one of the biggest threats to technology that currently exists.  When most people think of hacking, they think of some random person or organization accessing and going through all of your information that may be stored on a device like a computer or phone.  But aside from these random individuals and organizations, there is also another group of people that many are worried will hack into their technological devices and access their private information: the government.

While the government currently has many limitations on what types of devices they may hack into and access, there has been a proposal to change Rule 41 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, which deals with searches and seizures.  Three major changes would be made.  The first change would allow a judge to approve an order for hacking to extend to any jurisdiction regardless of the location of the device, as long as the end user has attempted to obscure that location.  The second change would allow a single order to issue for an entire network of computers.  Finally, the change would modify the notice requirements for court orders.

While these changes may not seem to be too drastic at first glance, the problem is that they would essentially give U.S. Law Enforcement a new power to hack people worldwide, and it could inevitably affect hundreds of millions of innocent users outside of U.S. borders.  Not only does this pose threats to secure and private information, but it would even have further reaching effects such as discouraging the government from disclosing a discovered vulnerability to someone who could fix it and make data more secure.  After all, why would the government want to make it harder on themselves to hack someone?

The Supreme Court has already approved the rule change, and the only way to stop it now would be for Congress to pass a law to amend or render it invalid before Dec. 1, 2016.  After that, the rule goes into full force and effect and will have massive implications for human rights around the world.  The concept of government hacking is something I’ve never really considered before, but it is an issue that I feel deserves much more attention than it is currently receiving.

-Matthew Gioello