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Google fights FBI initiative to legalize hackings

Google has opposed the US Justice Department in its attempt to give FBI the power to search and seize digital data, claiming the proposed amendment “raises a number of monumental and highly complex constitutional, legal and geopolitical concerns.”

On 13 February, Google sent a strongly worded letter (opens in new tab) to The Judicial Conference Advisory Committee on Criminal Rules, urging the Committee to reject the proposed amendments and leave the expansion of the government’s investigative and technological tools to Congress.

What Google finds most disturbing is the fact that FBI would have permission to access data stored anywhere in the world, giving the US government unrestricted access to unthinkable amounts of information.

“Remote searches of media or information that have been ‘concealed through technological means’ may take place anywhere in the world,” Google writes, adding that “this concern is not theoretical”.

“Concealed through technological means” – means that the FBI could remotely search computers that have hidden their location using different anonymity services like Tor.

The second crucial problem lies in the place where the computer is located. Currently, under the so-called Rule 41, the FBI needed a warrant to search a computer, given by a judge located in the same district.

Now, the Justice Department claims such an approach is outdated and that the FBI should be able to search digital property outside of a judge’s district.

It says that it should only need a warrant issued by the judge in the district where the crime took place.

Google says this approach violates the sovereignty of other nations: “To this end, it is well established that ‘[a]bsent a treaty or other agreement between nations, the jurisdiction of law enforcement agents does not extend beyond a nation’s borders’.

Sead Fadilpašić is a freelance tech writer and journalist with more than 17 years experience writing technology-focussed news, blogs, whitepapers, reviews, and ebooks. And his work has featured in online media outlets from all over the world, including Al Jazeera Balkans (where he was a Multimedia Journalist), Crypto News, TechRadar Pro, and IT Pro Portal, where he has written news and features for over five years. Sead's experience also includes writing for inbound marketing, where he creates technology-based content for clients from London to Singapore. Sead is a HubSpot-certified content creator.