In a move that legitimizes invasion of privacy on a global level by US, the US Supreme Court has approved a rule change that could allow law enforcement to break into computers, worldwide, regardless of their national laws, individual privacy, or digital ethics. The US Department of Justice (DoJ) said the change was necessary to modernize the law for the digital age.
The act itself, of spying or breaking into/hacking computers globally isn’t surprising for USA – given the proven leaks by former NSA personnel Edward Snowden, which stated NSA’s power to spy and capture content worldwide with surgical precision. Further, the recent case of Apple vs FBI where FBI was arguing for legal access to force Apple into opening an encrypted lock iPhone of a slain terrorist, is also too fresh in public debate for this news. The legal hearing states Department of Justice wants judges to be able to issue remote search warrants for computers located anywhere that the United States claims jurisdiction, which includes other countries.
A remote search in simpler terms means locating the suspect’s computer over the internet, which is easy, and then accessing private data on it. There are several important consequences of the move:
- Users can easily mask their location on the internet, via proxies and masking their IP using scramblers that can constantly change their. This can jeopardize determining the exact location of the user
- Users can virtually be anonymous via networks like Tor, however these are also not foolproof as FBI has demonstrated time and again that even the Tor network isn’t foolproof.
- This move particularly doesn’t specify innocent/average users to be spied on. However NSA is already doing mass surveillance which doesn’t add to the equation
- The government notice explicitly states there must be probable cause and notice before searches
- No legal authority will gain any new authority not already permitted by law
- The range includes thousands of millions of computers in their range
The pretext of the judgment is based on the fact that since users can fake their location, international range needs to have legal authority so as to prevent American criminals or damage to American citizens/digital data using such technology
Naturally, digital rights groups are outraged at the move. In 2015, Google opposed the move which threatens to undermine privacy rights of and computer rights of it’s users, which are essentially every single internet user. Google stated ‘Under the proposed rules, the government would now be able to obtain a single warrant to access and search thousands or millions of computers at once; and the vast majority of the affected computers would belong to the victims, not the perpetrators, of a cybercrime”.
The US congress can technically still opt to accept or reject the changes to the criminal procedure – but if it chooses to ignore and not act by 1st December, the change will take affect making it extremely difficult to make amendments later. If you believe in petitions and the power of the public to make the congress aware, this would be the perfect time to act on it. What do you think of the move, will you be opposing it or does it not affect you? Let us know in the comments on our official Facebook page Entrepreneur India