100% All-Natural Composition
No Artificial Intelligence!

Friday, May 22, 2009

FCC can enter your home without warrant if you have a wireless router

If your home network uses a wireless router, or if you have a cordless phone or baby monitor or cellphone or anything that emits radio waves, the Federal Communications Commission has asserted it has the power to enter your property WITHOUT a warrant in order to "inspect" said equipment.
That’s the upshot of the rules the agency has followed for years to monitor licensed television and radio stations, and to crack down on pirate radio broadcasters. And the commission maintains the same policy applies to any licensed or unlicensed radio-frequency device.

“Anything using RF energy — we have the right to inspect it to make sure it is not causing interference,” says FCC spokesman David Fiske. That includes devices like Wi-Fi routers that use unlicensed spectrum, Fiske says.

The FCC claims it derives its warrantless search power from the Communications Act of 1934, though the constitutionality of the claim has gone untested in the courts. That’s largely because the FCC had little to do with average citizens for most of the last 75 years, when home transmitters were largely reserved to ham-radio operators and CB-radio aficionados. But in 2009, nearly every household in the United States has multiple devices that use radio waves and fall under the FCC’s purview, making the commission’s claimed authority ripe for a court challenge.

“It is a major stretch beyond case law to assert that authority with respect to a private home, which is at the heart of the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable search and seizure,” says Electronic Frontier Foundation lawyer Lee Tien. “When it is a private home and when you are talking about an over-powered Wi-Fi antenna — the idea they could just go in is honestly quite bizarre.”

George Washington University professor Orin Kerr, a constitutional law expert, also questions the legalilty of the policy.

“The Supreme Court has said that the government can’t make warrantless entries into homes for administrative inspections,” Kerr said via e-mail, refering to a 1967 Supreme Court ruling that housing inspectors needed warrants to force their way into private residences. The FCC’s online FAQ doesn’t explain how the agency gets around that ruling, Kerr adds.

There's more on the Wired.com story linked above, including how this crazy "right" first came to light.

And if any of our friends from the FCC are reading this, I can only say this:

You can have my Linksys router... when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers!


Matt said...

This is a conspiracy from AOL to make us go back to dial-up, isn't it?

Anonymous said...

They can't bust up in your house, Chris. As a student of pirate radio broadcasting, I can tell you that even in the case of pirate radio stations broadcasting on AM and FM, they still have to ask for permission to "inspect" first (you never, ever let them do this), and if that fails, then they have to seek a search warrant from a federal magistrate. Once they get the warrant, then they have to coordinate with federal law enforcement authorities like the FBI since your city cop or county fuzz can't help because they have no jurisdiction. Once the FBI serves the warrant, then they can search and seize your property. Oh, and the warrant has to say SPECIFICALLY what they are looking for too. FCC agents have no law enforcement authority, they can't arrest you, but they sure as hell will try to intimidate you if you let them. Maybe best of all, the FCC is working with a skeleton crew now, thanks to budget cuts, they have very few field inspectors/agents these days, and it is my understanding that unless a major broadcast violation is going on, it could take 6 months to a year before they look into complaints, even if they look at them then. So don't sweat it, I doubt they want to come seize your Linksys. But your CB Radio...could be another matter! :)

Captain Bly

flowers said...

Every household in the US has multiple devices that use radio waves and fall under the FCC’s perview.
send flowers