Are you frightened by the thought of your own government spying on you? Your personal information was secretly tapped for the National Security Agency by telecommunications companies for years. In fact, billions of emails and other private communications have been scanned and read by the NSA for decades.
The U.S. government uses spying techniques to try and prevent terrorism and cyberattacks. Skeptics worry that these techniques could be reverse-engineered and used against the government or innocent Americans. The loss of personal privacy is another issue government spying brings to light.
Now, there is a plan in place that would dramatically expand the government's hacking and surveillance authority. A rule change would give the FBI authority to use malware to hack into an unlimited number of computers.
Rule 41 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure puts limits on how the FBI obtains electronic search warrants for computer networks. Currently, a federal judge can only authorize the FBI to install malware on computers that they suspect are being used for criminal activity. The computer also has to be located within the judge's jurisdiction.
Changes to Rule 41 would remove those limitations. Basically making it legal for the government to hack anyone. These changes will go into effect on December 1st, unless Congress acts to stop them.
At this time, no congressional hearings on the rule changes are scheduled. However, a bipartisan effort in the Senate is reportedly underway to change that.