Google strongly opposes plans to let ANY US COURT authorise digi-snoops

Ad broker : It raises 'monumental' concerns

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Google has strongly opposed US government plans to expand federal powers to authorise remote searches of digital data - claiming in a letter the powers will weaken citizens' fourth amendment rights.

The right is the part of the US Constitution that prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures and requires any warrant to be judicially sanctioned and supported by probable cause.

In a letter to the Washington committee considering the proposed changes to the Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 41, Google said the amendments raise a number of "monumental and highly complex constitutional, legal, and geopolitical concerns."

"Google urges the committee to reject the proposed amendment and leave the expansion of the government's investigative and technological tools, if any are necessary or appropriate, to Congress," it said.

The changes would permit any court within any district to issue a warrant authorising remote access searches of electronic information.

The company said a magistrate judge in the Southern District of Texas recently denied an application for a Rule 41 Warrant to permit US law enforcement agents to hack a computer whose location was unknown, but whose IP address was most recently associated with a country in South-East Asia. "Such searches clearly violate the extraterritorial limitations of Rule 41," it said.

It added: "The nature of today's technology is such that warrants issued under the proposed amendment will in many cases end up authorising the government to conduct searches outside the United States.

"Although the proposed amendment disclaims association with any constitutional questions, it invariably expands the scope of law enforcement searches, weakens the Fourth Amendment's particularity and notice requirements, opens the door to potentially unreasonable searches and seizures and expands the practice of covert entry warrants."

Richard Salgado, Google's director for law enforcement and information security, said the proposed change "raises a number of monumental and highly complex constitutional, legal, and geopolitical concerns that should be left to Congress to decide".

Google raised its objections as part of a public consultation that ended on Tuesday. ®

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