A Senior District Judge in the United States has ruled that Internet users have no right to privacy when using a personal computer, as they are not immune from invasion due to security being “ineffectual.” The federal judge made the ruling following a case involving the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and a website distributing indecent images.
The decision follows a flurry of lawsuits from Internet users in the US stating that the FBI used single warrants to conduct mass hacking on the Internet. According to tech news site eWEEK, Senior US District Judge Henry Coke Morgan Jr. said that there could be “no expectation of privacy” when connected to the Internet and upheld the FBI’s general interpretation of the warrants that they used.
He also added that it was “not objectively reasonable” to believe that individuals may not be hacked by the FBI when browsing the web. The case that the judge’s ruling stems from involves a site on “the dark web,” a hidden service within the “deep web” where data such as encrypted info and databases can only be accessed via various tools and clients.
The dark web has become a haven for illegal activities, including hacking, gambling and distributing indecent images. According to Motherboard, in the most recent case, the FBI seized the Playpen website and infected users with a hacking tool that gathers unique addresses. An estimated 1,500 IPs were recovered, and charges were subsequently filed against defendants across the country.
Internet privacy remains a bone of contention for privacy advocates, as heavy-handed measures can be seen as a violation of basic human rights. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) said that the latest ruling could be dangerous, as it would allow law enforcement to search and seize information from a connected device without needing a warrant, cause or suspicion.
“According to the court, the federal government does not need a warrant to hack into an individual’s computer,” a statement from the EFF said. “This decision is the latest in, and perhaps the culmination of, a series of troubling decisions in prosecutions stemming from the FBI’s investigation of Playpen.” However, it added that the ruling was unlikely to stand on appeal.