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U.S. Supreme court gives FBI more hacking powers, potentially to go cross-border

Security

Companies that think they have sovereignty over the contents of their Canadian data centres need to think again.

The U.S. Supreme Court has approved rule changes that would allow judges to issue warrants for the FBI to hack into or seize computers located in any jurisdiction, potentially even outside of the country.

Within the U.S., these new powers are meant to allow authorities to track criminals that conduct digital border-hopping. But it also allows them to go after privacy-conscious users who use services like Tor to mask their locations while surfing.

There is speculation, however, that the FBI can now legally hack into data on servers in places like Canada or overseas.

The Japan Times reports that prior to the ruling, magistrate judges were only able to issue warrants for searches in their own jurisdiction, often limited to several counties.

Google and civil liberties groups have spoken out against the proposed changes, arguing it is unconstitutional. The changes have to pass through both chambers of Congress. Observers believe this is unlikely given the heated electoral race in the country.

Congress has until December 1 to reject or make further changes, or the rules will take effect.