US Supreme Court approves search warrants for computers in any jurisdiction

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in General Discussion
The U.S. Supreme Court has authorized a rule change that -- barring intervention by Congress -- will allow judges to issue search warrants for computers in any jurisdiction, instead of just the ones their courts oversee directly.




The new rules were sent to Congress by Chief Justice John Roberts, giving them a chance to be modified or rejected, Reuters said on Friday. If Congress doesn't take action by Dec. 1, the change will take effect automatically.

Opposition is already promised by Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), who said he will introduce legislation to undo the change. Wyden argued that it could allow the government to use a single warrant to search "thousands or millions" of computers at a time, most of which would "belong to the victims, not the perpetrators, of a cybercrime."

The U.S. Justice Department has been pushing for expanded reach in this area since 2013, its own position being that it's a minor change needed to modernize the law and pursue criminals who anonymize their identity -- something potentially easier to counter with remote searches.

Other factions on the same side as Wyden include Google, and civil liberties groups like Access Now and the American Civil Liberties Union. Google servers could easily be a target for the new search warrants, given the popularity of Android and services like Gmail.

The Justice Department has also been seeking the ability to compel companies like Apple and Google into circumventing encryption, though its efforts have largely failed so far. A proposed bill might salvage that goal.

Search powers appear set to be curtailed in another way through the Email Privacy Act, which should force federal agencies to obtain a warrant for email older than 180 days.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 27
    Makes sense. If a warrant can breach doctor-patient privilege, financial records and gain access to  personal property, digital property should be no different. At least having to get a warrant creates a paper trail instead of keeping the law's actions secret. 
  • Reply 2 of 27
    ziPRRziPRR Posts: 1member
    This is a gross overreach of our judicial system. There's a reason jurisdiction exists.
    bdkennedy1002redraider11ronnbuzdotsuraharaicoco3jbdragonlostkiwiaaron sorensonjony0
  • Reply 3 of 27
    singularitysingularity Posts: 1,329member
    ziPRR said:
    This is a gross overreach of our judicial system. There's a reason jurisdiction exists.
    As the US doesn't seem to be bothered about jurisdiction outside the USA really MS and it's servers in Ireland, why bother about jurisdiction inside?
  • Reply 4 of 27
    ziPRR said:
    This is a gross overreach of our judicial system. There's a reason jurisdiction exists.
    The point is that "jurisdiction" doesn't exist online in the same way as it does in the offline world. The rules need to change and everyone knows it. 
    mdriftmeyer
  • Reply 5 of 27
    This undermines the point of having legal districts. Not only would it magnify the potential number of inspections (due to the case load being distributed across the entire country), but it's also ham-fisted to believe that every justice in every district would be knowledgable or on par to the reasonable grounds for datacenter inspection. This will lead to an absurd rise in data centre inspection for frivolous reasons, and ultimately burden datacenter operators (especially smaller providers), but also get in the way of more urgent cases which can be prioritised by a much more knowledgable local justice.
    ronnbaconstangcornchip
  • Reply 6 of 27
    mike1mike1 Posts: 1,899member
    I'm concerned with law enforcement finding a sympathetic judge anywhere in the country to authorize the warrant.
    ronnbaconstangbuzdotsuraharaicoco3jbdragoncornchip
  • Reply 7 of 27
    plovellplovell Posts: 801member
    This can be done already but it takes a more senior Judge to approve it (i.e. out-of-area). But I strongly suspect that it will lead to jurisdiction-shopping. And that's not good.
    ronnjbdragonlostkiwicornchip
  • Reply 8 of 27
    plovellplovell Posts: 801member
    Makes sense. If a warrant can breach doctor-patient privilege, financial records and gain access to  personal property, digital property should be no different. At least having to get a warrant creates a paper trail instead of keeping the law's actions secret. 
    I'm not sure about doctor-patient privilege. Same with client-attorney privilege. I don't think that a warrant can breach either of these.
    ronnchasmbaconstangjbdragon
  • Reply 9 of 27
    Guilty until proven innocent.
    cnocbuironncornchip
  • Reply 10 of 27
    macplusplusmacplusplus Posts: 1,806member
    Search warrants will accumulate on a few well known courts just like patent cases accumulate on a few courts in Texas... Congress must intervene... Search warrant incoming from another jurisdiction must be approved by the local court. The cooperation of the courts is essential.
    edited April 2016 ronnbadmonk
  • Reply 11 of 27
    isidoreisidore Posts: 49member
    I'm not an American or in the US so I may be talking through my hat. Does this not infringe on state rights? I can understand if it's a Federal case but surely you can't have some local magistrate in one state ordering a search in another? On the other hand, as someone has already stated, the US authorities seem to think they can access data stored in another country so given that level of arrogance anything should be ok.
    redraider11uraharacornchip
  • Reply 12 of 27
    maestro64maestro64 Posts: 4,599member

    Wow the supreme court is now making rules, talking about legislating from the bench. This shows you how out of control the entire 3 branches of government are these days.

    I agree electronic activated they need not have jurisdiction battle going on and it is too had to get warrants in multiply places at the same time and execute them at the same time. However this is something the congress and president are suppose to decide not the Supreme court.

    cornchip
  • Reply 13 of 27
    volcanvolcan Posts: 1,789member
    Search warrants will accumulate on a few well known courts just like patent cases accumulate on a few courts in Texas... Congress must intervene... Search warrant incoming from another jurisdiction must be approved by the local court. The cooperation of the courts is essential.
    Does this rule change allow local magistrates to order a search warrant or does it have to at least be a federal judge? Can Judge Locke Randolph of Hazard County order a search of Google servers?
    cornchip
  • Reply 14 of 27
    maestro64 said:

    Wow the supreme court is now making rules, talking about legislating from the bench. This shows you how out of control the entire 3 branches of government are these days.

    I agree electronic activated they need not have jurisdiction battle going on and it is too had to get warrants in multiply places at the same time and execute them at the same time. However this is something the congress and president are suppose to decide not the Supreme court.

    Our Founding Fathers set up our government the way they did on purpose. It's not supposed to be easy to pass laws and get warrants. But you are right, the job of the Supreme Court is not to pass law or make law. They're only supposed to be the final say in any given court case that makes it to them. Whenever you hear the President make a fuss about how it's hard to get anything done in congress, we should all be smiling and thanking the people who founded this country. 
    buzdotsjbdragonwetlanderlostkiwicornchip
  • Reply 15 of 27
    macplusplusmacplusplus Posts: 1,806member
    volcan said:
    Search warrants will accumulate on a few well known courts just like patent cases accumulate on a few courts in Texas... Congress must intervene... Search warrant incoming from another jurisdiction must be approved by the local court. The cooperation of the courts is essential.
    Does this rule change allow local magistrates to order a search warrant or does it have to at least be a federal judge? Can Judge Locke Randolph of Hazard County order a search of Google servers?
    See the Reuters link in the article.
  • Reply 16 of 27
    jasenj1jasenj1 Posts: 916member
    So if I, for example, store all my child porn, or plans to blow up the White House, or a second set of accounting books in Google Docs or some other cloud based storage solution, where is that data? What judge can issue warrants to search what servers? Does the vendor (Google, Amazon, whoever) even know the physical location of the data? If I live in NY but store all my bad stuff on a server in CA, or Russia, or China what happens? How about I get more devious and store my data on personal computers infected with some malware that lets me "steal" some of their storage - distributed so that pieces of the data are scattered across hundreds or thousands of computers (all encrypted, of course)?

    Now, the authorities could search my local computer, and possibly find incriminating info in my browser's cache or some such. But that would be your simple, not-very-clever, criminals.

    On the one hand, I sympathize with law enforcement that people are able to store and access data scattered across the globe and that makes it really difficult to gather evidence. On the other hand, I fear the ever-watching (and gathering) eye of big government.
    cornchip
  • Reply 17 of 27
    volcanvolcan Posts: 1,789member
    volcan said:
    Does this rule change allow local magistrates to order a search warrant or does it have to at least be a federal judge? Can Judge Locke Randolph of Hazard County order a search of Google servers?
    See the Reuters link in the article.
    I read it but it was ambiguous, at least to me, which is why I asked. I was not sure what the definition of US judge or magistrate was. Since was missing the word federal, it could possibly mean any judge in the US.
    edited April 2016
  • Reply 18 of 27
    plovell said:
    Makes sense. If a warrant can breach doctor-patient privilege, financial records and gain access to  personal property, digital property should be no different. At least having to get a warrant creates a paper trail instead of keeping the law's actions secret. 
    I'm not sure about doctor-patient privilege. Same with client-attorney privilege. I don't think that a warrant can breach either of these.
    Warrants, or court orders, absolutely do breach doctor-patient and attorney-client privilege. Routinely. A warrant can also compel a journalist to reveal their source. 
  • Reply 19 of 27
    macplusplusmacplusplus Posts: 1,806member
    volcan said:
    See the Reuters link in the article.
    I read it but it was ambiguous, at least to me, which is why I asked. I was not sure what the definition of US judge or magistrate was. Since was missing the word federal, it could possibly mean any judge in the US.
    The news reporting may be misleading as the arrangement may be strictly limited to reveal hidden servers. It may be possible to interpret that judgment in the appropriate legal context. The discussion of the legal text is obviously beyond the scope of such forums.
    edited April 2016
  • Reply 20 of 27
    TomETomE Posts: 141member
    "The Network is the computer".  - Considering this statement, it opens virtually everything to search.
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