FRPC Rule 41 is the part of the United States Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure that covers the search and seizure of physical and digital evidence.Content Continues Below
Rule 41 originally granted a federal judge magistrate the authority to issue a warrant to search and seize a person or property located within that judge's district if the person or property is part of a criminal investigation or trial. In April 2016, the Judicial Conference of the United States proposed an amendment to Rule 41 that allows a federal judge magistrate to issue a warrant that allows an investigator to gain remote access to a digital device suspected in a crime, even if the device is located outside of the geographic jurisdiction of the judge issuing the warrant.
Following standard protocol for changes to federal rules, the Supreme Court passed the approved proposal on to Congress, and Congress was given until December 1, 2016 to allow or disallow the proposed changes. An important goal of the amendment to Rule 41 is to prevent criminals from hiding the location of a computing device with anonymization technology in order to make detection and prosecution more difficult.
Privacy advocates are concerned that the amendment will expand the government's authority to legally hack individuals and organizations and monitor any computer suspected of being part of a botnet. In addition to giving the government the authority to seize or copy the information on a digital device no matter where that device is located, the amendment also allows investigators who are investigating a crime that spans five or more judicial districts to go to one judge for warrants instead of having to request warrants from judges in each juristiction.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation, the American Civil Liberties Union and more than 50 technology companies -- including Google and PayPal -- opposed the amendment and have urged Congress to carefully examine the constitutional, legal and geopoliticial ramifications of the amendment to Rule 41 before granting approval.