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Google takes on proposed ‘Rule 41’ search and seizure change

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It isn’t just the big attacks on privacy like SOPA that get Google’s attention. The technology giant has its eyes on the government on small changes such as the proposed Rule 41 search and seizure change, for which public debate ended yesterday.

There is a little confusion about what it means, mostly because both sides are painting a completely different picture. In essence, the change would wipe jurisdictional challenges away from the issuance of search and seizure warrants pertaining to certain electronic property. Today, the FBI would need to get a warrant locally to spy on computer files, but the new rule would alleviate this by allowing warrants to be given outside of jurisdiction.

This rule change is being proposed to streamline the ability of law enforcement to tap into networks, databases, and “the cloud” without having to get approval within the jurisdiction where the information is housed. In a world where any individual’s data property might be spread out across the country or around the world, it can be heard to get the right warrant from the right person based upon geographical and jurisdictional restraints.

Google and other tech companies aren’t necessarily against this measure in practice, but they are protesting the broad nature of the wording. This would open up the potential for law enforcement to get free pass warrants on networks. Technically, it would allow the government to access data for millions of Americans at once if abused. The government says that certain discretionary measures have to be assumed, but that’s not satisfying Google’s concerns.

We are months if not over a year away from seeing this happen, but it should be on any privacy-watchdog’s radar now, mostly because it seems to be on nobody’s radar but Google’s at the moment.

According to the National Journal:

Google, in its comments, blasted the desired rule change as overly vague, saying the proposal could authorize remote searches on the data of millions of Americans simultaneously—particularly those who share a network or router—and cautioned it rested on shaky legal footing.

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