File this one under (attempted) pre-trial indictment investigations. For
anyone who wonders why a rule requiring police to get a valid search warrant
before actually conducting the search is a good rule, look no further than Cyrus
Farivar’s story with Ars Technica.
The FBI asked a federal magistrate judge for a search and seizure warrant
granting them the authority to hack into someone’s computer. The
software would’ve allowed FBI agents, among other things, to turn
the computer’s webcam on.
And the judge said no.
Essentially, the grounds on which the FBI sought the warrant were overly
broad. No one knew where the computer was actually located, for one thing,
which did not satisfy the general rule that a given police search will
be confined to a particular location. Nor did the FBI show that its hacking
would not involve innocent computer users, or those who weren’t
the subject of investigation.
Most troubling, perhaps, is what’s going on outside this particular
case. Farivar reports that the same judge who said no to the FBI has also
said that law enforcement authorities ask for – and apparently get
– thousands of these kinds of surveillance warrants every year.
FBI denied permission to spy on hacker through his webcam