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Supreme Court Approves Rule Change Giving the FBI More Hacking Power

The Supreme Court on Thursday approved a rule change that would allow U.S. judges to issue search warrants for access to computers located in any jurisdiction, despite opposition from civil liberties groups who say it will greatly expand the FBI’s hacking authority.

U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts transmitted the rules to Congress, which will have until December 1 to reject or modify the changes to the federal rules of criminal procedure. If Congress does not act, the rules would take effect automatically.

The U.S. Justice Department, which has pushed the rule change since 2013, has described it as a minor modification needed to modernize the criminal code for the digital age, and has said it would not permit searches or seizures that are not already legal.

Google, owned by Alphabet, and civil liberties groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union and Access Now contend the change would vastly expand the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s ability to conduct mass hacks on computer networks.

They say it also could run afoul of the U.S. Constitution’s protections against unreasonable searches and seizures.