Reg comments7

Congress presents plan to tighten reins on FBI hacking

Bill gets bipartisan support

A bipartisan bill introduced to Congress this week will aim to set new limits on the ability of the FBI to access private computers.

Dubbed the Stopping Mass Hacking (SMH) Act, the Senate bill [PDF] aims to roll back changes the Supreme Court recently issued in its stance on Rule 41 computer search warrants. Those changes allow a warrant to be issued for a computer search without the need to determine jurisdiction.

Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Rand Paul (R-KY) have proposed a series of amendments that make up the SMH Act and would specifically require that locational information, forcing investigators to get a warrant from a judge with jurisdiction over that area.

"This is a dramatic expansion of the government's hacking and surveillance authority," Wyden said.

"Such a substantive change with an enormous impact on Americans' constitutional rights should be debated by Congress, not maneuvered through an obscure bureaucratic process."

Rule 41 was brought to the forefront by the recent FBI bust of a child sex abuse site and its use of a Network Investigation Technique (NIT) and magistrate judge warrant to track down users.

Though Congress has not previously had much luck passing limits on government hacking, SMH could prove more successful, thanks to the bi-partisan backing of Wyden and Paul, both prominent members of their respective parties in the Senate. The bill is also co-sponsored by a bi-partisan group comprised of Tammy Baldwin, (D-WI), Steve Daines (R-MT) and Jon Tester (D-MT).

The Senators hope that, with both parties on board, the Act can pass through the Senate, then over to the House of Representatives and eventually the President's desk. ®

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