Search giant Google is submitting documents in opposition to a plan to increase the U.S. government’s legal authority to infiltrate global computer systems, saying that the proposed new regulations raise a number of “monumental and highly complex” constitutional issues. In its documents prepared for the government committee considering the new regulations, Google argued that the amendment would open up a Pandora’s box of “government hacking of any facility wherever located”.
Say what you want about Google. The tech titan might be a disruptive economic influence and even a bully to other businesses in its efforts to establish its own income stream, but it is a staunch supporter of limiting government power over the Internet and technology.
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Details on proposed regulatory changes
An article from The Telegraph highlights that the current Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 41 only allows prosecutors to search for and seize property (including virtual property) in districts where they have already obtained a warrant from the district authorities.
The proposed new regulations would allow a court within a district where a crime has happened to permit remote access searches of electronic information outside of the district.
Google noted that this was likely to happen in cases where the location of information is hidden by technical means such as encryption or by falsifying their IP addresses, so the new regulation would in effect allow blanket searches for anything anywhere.
Google’s comments on the proposed new regulations as well as comments from 37 other parties, have been filed as part of a public consulting process for the proposed amendment. The comments will be considered by the Advisory Committee on Criminal Rules, which is the government body in charge of interpreting and amending many federal regulations.
The U.S. Department of Justice argues that the new rule necessary because new anonymizing technologies are creating difficulties for prosecutors in trying to locate criminals.
Google and others who oppose the changes say that these kind of intrusive tactics will undermine diplomatic arrangements the U.S. government has developed with other countries over decades.
Statement from Google
“This concern is not theoretical,” Google noted in its submission. “The nature of today’s technology is such that warrants issued under the proposed amendment will in many cases end up authorizing the government to conduct searches outside the United States.”