GOP co-sponsor will join government hacking bill

GOP co-sponsor will join government hacking bill
© Greg Nash

A Republican will co-sponsor a bill from Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenHillicon Valley: Google to limit political ad targeting | Senators scrutinize self-driving car safety | Trump to 'look at' Apple tariff exemption | Progressive lawmakers call for surveillance reforms | House panel advances telecom bills Democrats raise privacy concerns over Amazon home security system Trump tax breaks for low-income neighborhoods draw scrutiny MORE blocking a Justice Department request to expand its remote hacking powers, an aide to the Oregon Democrat tells The Hill. 

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The measure, originally expected this week, is now anticipated early next week. Wyden's office would not name the anticipated co-sponsor on Thursday. 

At issue is a proposed alteration to little-known criminal procedure rules — approved by the Supreme Court last month — that would allow judges to grant warrants for electronic searches in multiple locations, even when investigators don’t know the physical location of a device.

The Justice Department, which has been working for years on getting the change, insists the revision to what’s known as Rule 41 is a necessary update to match the realities of modern digital investigations.

But the amendment has met with swift pushback from tech companies such as Google, which fear the change will give the FBI the authority to hack computers with little oversight.

Onlookers say the opposition to the change has united civil liberties advocates from both sides of the aisle who are concerned that the amendment is a form of government overreach.

“These amendments will have significant consequences for Americans’ privacy and the scope of the government’s powers to conduct remote surveillance and searches of electronic devices,” Wyden said late last month, announcing his intention to bring legislation.

Lawmakers have seven months to weigh in with affirmation legislation. Absent any congressional action, the rule will take effect on Dec. 1.