Activists fighting expansion of government powers to hack private computers

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Credit: No Global Warrants

Rights activists led by the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Tor Project are rallying similar organizations and their constituents to step up opposition to a rules change backed by the U.S. Justice Department that would grant law enforcement vast new surveillance authorities and undermine anonymity online.

Website operators are  being asked to join the effort today by posting banners on their sites.

From an EFF press release:

EFF and over 40 partner organizations are holding a day of action for a new campaign—noglobalwarrants.org—to engage citizens about the dangers of Rule 41 and push U.S. lawmakers to oppose it. The process for updating these rules—which govern federal criminal court processes—was intended to deal exclusively with procedural issues. But this year a U.S. judicial committee approved changes in the rule that will expand judicial authority to grant warrants for government hacking. …

Right now, Rule 41 only authorizes federal magistrate judges to issue warrants to conduct searches in the judicial district where the magistrate is located. The new Rule 41 would for the first time authorize magistrates to issue warrants when “technological means,” like Tor or virtual private networks (VPNs), are obscuring the location of a computer. In these circumstances, the rule changes would authorize warrants to remotely access, search, seize, or copy data on computers, wherever in the world they are located.

The organizations are collection petition signatures at noglobalwarrants.org and website operators can also go there to download widgets that express their opposition to Rule 41.

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A letter addressed to the Congressional leaders of both parties can be read here. An earlier post from EFF offers greater detail regarding the dangers of the proposed change.

In May, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) filed a bill that would block Rule 41, writing at the time: “When the public realizes what is at stake, I think there is going to be a massive outcry: Americans will look at Congress and say, ‘What were you thinking?’”

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