Amendment to Criminal Procedure Rule 41 Impacts Data Privacy in U.S. and Abroad

On December 1, 2016, amended Rule 41 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure (FRCP) went into effect, thus expanding federal law enforcement’s power to search and seize electronic data. The new rule will allow law enforcement to seek a warrant from a “magistrate judge with authority in any district where activities related to a crime may have occurred” and use that warrant to legally access and copy data from any computer system that may be “concealing” electronically stored information (ESI) pertinent to, or damaged by, the crime. The rule has caused consternation among privacy activists and technology companies, and may ultimately clash with international privacy laws.

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