Rule 41 Faces Opposition From VPNs And Tech Industry

In April, the United States Supreme Court ruled that law enforcement could obtain warrants to hack into computers and phones anywhere in the world. The changes are part of Rule 41 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, and big name organizations within the tech industry have joined together to challenge the ruling.

The ruling allows law enforcement to obtain permission to hack any computer whose location has been hidden. Anyone who uses TOR, VPNs and proxies are vulnerable to the ruling, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has implied that the threat goes even farther.

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“It might also extend to people who deny access to location data for smartphone apps because they don’t feel like sharing their location with ad networks,” the EFF said. “It could even include individuals who change the country setting in an online service, like folks who change the country settings of their Twitter profile in order to read uncensored Tweets.”

Multiple big names in the tech industry have combined to create a grand coalition of opposers, and issued a letter to congress delineating their complaints:

“The rule changes attempt to sidestep the legislative process by using a process designed for procedural rules to expand investigatory powers,” the letter said.

“Moreover, the changes to Rule 41 will disproportionately undermine the privacy of those who have done the most to protect it. Specifically, the proposal would allow warrants for remote hacking in cases where privacy protective technologies obscure the location of a computer.”

“There are countless reasons people may want to use technology to shield their privacy,” the letter continued. “From journalists communicating with sources to victims of domestic violence seeking information on legal services, people worldwide depend on privacy tools for privacy, personal safety, and data security.”

The letter, which asks congress to pass legislation that undoes the approved changes from April, was signed by over 50 organizations and companies, including Google, Evernote, Free Press Action Fund, Paypal, American Civil Liberties Union and American Library Association.

If congress takes no action, the change will go into effect December 1, 2016. “Passing this bill by December 1 will ensure that Congress has time to fully consider the issue of government hacking before this practice becomes widespread. We urge you to support this bill and to reject the changes to Rule 41,” the letter finished.

A petition to stop the changes has been created.

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