(CN) - Plans to expand the FBI's authority in remotely accessing computers raises "monumental" constitutional issues, Google told a judicial rules committee.
The warning from Google comes after the Justice Department asked a little-known judicial advisory committee to amend Rule 41 of the federal rules of criminal procedure, a regulation that for now allows judges to issue search warrants only within their judicial district.
But the government asked the Advisory Committee on the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure to let judges issue search warrants "to use remote access to search electronic storage media and to seize or copy electronically stored information located within or outside that district."
It claims that this change is necessary because criminals are increasingly using methods to hide the location of their computers, or using a network of computers in multiple districts, which requires a search warrant in each district to investigate.
Google submitted comments on Feb. 13 opposing the expansion of the government's warrant powers.
The search-engine giant argues that the rule change raises "a number of monumental and highly complex constitutional, legal, and geopolitical concerns that should be left to Congress to decide."
There is "no doubt" that the proposed rule change would lead to the seizure of data from computers located outside the U.S., directly stepping on the sovereignty of other nations, Google says.
It also slams the proposed amendment of being vague for failing to define terms such as "remote access," or specify how it will handle information collected that is not within the terms of the warrant.
"None of the sample warrants provide any details regarding the nature of the NIT [network investigative technique] being deployed, technical details specifying how the NIT will extract the specified information, or details regarding how the NIT will avoid collecting information belonging to non-targets who may innocently access the targeted website or share the targeted device or account," Google's letter says. "In short, 'remote access' seems to authorize government hacking of any facility wherever located."
Richard Salgado, Google's legal director, wrote in a blog post Wednesday that the rule change "threatens to undermine the privacy rights and computer security" of all internet users.
Many banks, online retailers, and other businesses use a virtual private network (VPN) to protect users' information, but these networks may be subject to a warrant if the rule is changed because a VPN often hides the actual location of a network.
Salgado said: "The Advisory Committee is entertaining a dramatic change to electronic surveillance rules. Congress is the proper body to determine whether such changes are warranted, and we urge the Committee to respect Congress' traditional role in prescribing the substantive rules governing electronic surveillance."
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