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VA: Hearing Thursday: EFF Tells Court That Clicking on a URL Isn’t Enough Evidence to Justify A Search Warrant

[eff.org/ – 1/29/19]

Identifying IP Address That May Have Connected to a URL Doesn’t Amount to Probable Cause

Richmond, Virginia—On Thursday, January 31, at 8:30 am, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) will ask a federal appeals court to find that the act of clicking on a URL or weblink isn’t sufficient evidence for law enforcement to get a warrant to search someone’s home.

The hearing involves a child pornography prosecution in which law enforcement obtained a warrant to search a defendant’s home based on the attempted connection to a URL (or weblink) by an IP address that was mapped to his computer. The URL led to a password-protected file-sharing service portal that the government maintains contained child pornography.

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  1. Dustin

    A lot of those links also come from popups. Others are where the whole screen is the link, or where the close button is fake, hidden, or in an odd place. Other times you have to go to those sites in order to unsubscribe or request no further advertisements (which are usually ignored; they always find ways of getting around efforts to block them).

    Mark this case. Considering the link was probably sent to this guy by the feds in the first place, that could lead to a finding of entrapment (hopefully one that will be harder for a court to ignore). Should also be helpful to those on paper and have pornography restrictions but still get spammed or popupped with porn ads; the probable cause standard to issue a warrant isn’t that much different from the preponderance of evidence standard to revoke probation (though most courts tend to be pretty loose with both regarding registrants and suspected sex offenses).

  2. Facts should matter

    “Computers accessing the Internet make thousands of connections to URLs and connect with servers around the world often without any knowledge or input from the computer’s user.”

    Correct! Clicking on a link doesn’t satisfy probable cause or reasonable suspicion. It’s the equivalent of a dialing a wrong phone number or your GPS sending you on a wild goose chase while driving. But leave it up to the FEDS to use this as a fishing trip or a “referral.”

    It’s too late after they show up at your house!

  3. Timl

    The one click warrant. What’s next for the saints?

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