Google Voices Concerns Regarding Government Warrants, Seeks to Protect Users

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Google has joined advocacy organisations such as the ACLU in voicing their concerns about proposed Amendments to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 41 by sending a comment letter to The Judicial Conference Advisory Committee on Criminal Rules. This rule outlines how warrants are issued to obtain information. This rule places limitations on how and what types of warrants may be issued. More specifically it states that a judge may not issue a search and seizure warrant outside his or her jurisdiction though there are exceptions to this rule. The Advisory Committee on the Rules of Criminal Procedure wants to include new rules for conducting “remote access” searches of electronic storage media. It stipulates that the physical location of the media must be concealed through electronic means. It also includes provisions related to botnet investigations in some cases.

What does all that mean? Well, Google claims that the new provisions that The Advisory Committee on the Rules of Criminal Procedure have proposed will have a huge impact concerning warrant power and that because it will give the Department of Justice (DoJ)  such far-reaching power, that this matter should be left to Congress to handle, and not an obscure committee. Google also argues that since this would allow the DoJ to have the ability to search devices across the globe and that there is nothing that would prevent them from accessing that information. They (Google) cite the fact that the United States has many agreements with foreign countries that will assist them with investigations that cross US borders. Google is concerned that giving this much power to law enforcement could cause issues with foreign governments as the US could encroach on other countries jurisdiction.

Another concern that Google has is the fact that the proposed changes could threaten the privacy and security of innocent users. A good example of this would be an investigation of botnets, where computers that would be targeted for search may belong to users who are innocent and victims of malware or other malicious code or attacks. Giving remote access warrants would allow the DoJ to search potential tens of thousands of computers at once. Google feels that this, “Carries with it the specter of government hacking without any Congressional debate or democratic policy making process.”

The proposed changes are viewed by Google as a means to change electronic surveillance rules. Google is asking that the Congress be the one to handle this kind of situation and determine if changes are needed and have asked that, “(The Committee) respect Congress’ traditional role in prescribing the substantive rules governing electronic surveillance.” This will be no quick battle as this will surely be debated by the tech sector and will most likely make the rounds through the judicial system in one form or another. Google has made their arguments known and for now it appears as if they have the public’s best interest in mind. We will just have to wait and see if Google and other advocacy groups’ political clout is enough to move this matter to Congress where it can be handled in a manner that is controlled by the people to ensure that the rights of the citizens of The United States are kept at the forefront of the debate.