The FBI is set to get new powers that will enable it to legally spy on any number of electronic devices in the world. Yesterday, a third and final attempt to block a potentially drastic piece of legislation meant that FBI will now have the privilege to invoke the law in their work.
Ron Wyden, the Democratic senator who has been working tirelessly to block the legislation, has once again condemned the legislation. In an interview, he said that the new piece of legislation is the worst thing that has happened to the practice of surveillance in the United States.
The new law
Under the new law, the FBI can ask a judge to issue the warrant allowing the bureau to spy on individual devices across the world systematically. Currently, judges in the United States can only allow the FBI to hack very few devices within a restricted geographical region. However, under the new law, which was sponsored by Republicans, judges can allow the FBI to hack millions of computers anywhere in the world, as long as the FBI convinces the judges that this is necessary.
The Justice Department has been seeking to change the policy environment in light of recent developments in cyber crime. The Department has been arguing that criminals are taking advantage of the lax regulations on surveillance to commit high-level crimes. It is in light of this that the new rules were drafted and brought before the Senate.
Interestingly, many people are likely to interpret this development in light of the incoming Trump administration. Given that judges may issue warrants for the FBI to carry out mass surveillance, many fear that the new laws may be subject to abuse. However, the Justice Department has repeatedly said that the new laws are good for the general public.
Other pundits have also observed that the new laws may help the FBI to convict criminals in high-level cybercrime syndicates successfully. For example, under the new regulations, judges may be obliged to accept as evidence some information that they can easily throw out under the current legislation.
Therefore, it remains to be seen how this new development will play out shortly and how the FBI will use the new laws to hack into millions of devices if a need arises systematically. Also, it remains to be seen whether the assurance by the Department of Justice that no one will abuse the laws and invade the privacy of individuals will hold.