Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Revision to Federal Criminal Procedure Rule May Lead to Widespread Electronic Surveillance

US - Effective December 1, 2016, Rule 41 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure will be amended to expand the reach of the authority of federal judges when they are issuing search warrants. Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon contends that the upcoming changes present a major threat to civil liberties associated with content stored on or accessible through electronic devices.

As modified, Rule 41 will permit federal judges to authorize expanded remote searches of electronic devices including computers and smartphones. Senator Wyden contends that the revised rule will enable federal judges to issue search warrants to permit remote searches of virtually any device, and the material accessible through that device, no matter where the device is located.

Wyden claims that this broad authority would enable a single federal judge to facilitate remote searches of millions of devices and all the materials accessible through those devices. He has proposed legislation which would block this rule modification. His legislative proposal has, however, not yet been enacted, thus the proposed rule changes currently remain on track for the December 1 effective date. more