The anonymity offered via the Tor network, and other parts of the dark web, has helped the online drug trading business flourish during the past few years. Law enforcement agencies face great challenges in order to monitor and take down dark web drug marketplaces. One of these challenges involves protecting the human rights of potential dark web drug dealers.
A recently published research paper questions whether individuals, who use aliases on the dark web in order to distribute their sold drugs via mail, should be able to preserve their Fourth Amendment rights in regard to their mail packages. Even though multiple circuit courts have recognized this issue, none were able to solve it. Let’s take a look the interesting information presented via this paper.
What is the Fourth Amendment?
The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States protects the right of American citizens to feel secure in their persons, houses, effects, and papers, against unreasonable searches, as well as seizures. The main goal of the Fourth Amendment is to protect citizens’ right to freedom and privacy against unreasonable government intrusions. Nevertheless, the Fourth Amendment does not protect against all searches and seizures, but only those that are considered unreasonable under the US law.
The Fourth Amendment and dark web drug packages:
Whether or not dark web drug vendors preserve their Fourth Amendment right with their packages represents a challenge that is yet to be addressed, but likely will be during the upcoming couple of years. More recently, one district court has concluded that dark web drug vendors do not actually preserve their Fourth Amendment rights within their mail packages. However, a recently published research study has shown that drug vendors, who use aliases on dark web marketplaces, actually retain their Fourth Amendment rights within the mail packages they use to send sold drugs to their customers.
The US Supreme Court approved law changes last year that would give the FBI and other law enforcement agencies the right to spy upon and hack the computers of any individual using anonymity browsing software such as Tor and VPNs. This new law change gives the FBI the power to hack any individual’s computer that makes use of anonymity software to conceal their identity, including victims of cyber crimes, whatever their location on the globe is via means of a single warrant.
This change to Rule 41 of the US Federal Rule of Criminal Procedures, which is centered on search, surveillance, and seizure, gave federal judges the authority to issue warrants in order to search computers that use anonymity browsing software, such as VPN and Tor, whatever their location is. Before this law change came into action, a federal judge was only capable of issuing warrants within their jurisdictions only.
A large number of anonymity rights associations, as well as several senators, described the Supreme Court’s law change as an insult to civil human rights, and a first step along a path that will involve unchecked hacking and spying by the government.
Ron Wyden is one of the Democratic Senators that strongly opposed this law change and proposed a bill to freeze the rule change. Wyden also reported that the Rule 41 law change will greatly undermine the internet anonymity rights of US based internet users, as well as boost the powers of the federal government to search computers and undergo remote surveillance. He also believed that this law change would give the FBI the right to search millions of computers, particularly those that use anonymity browsing software.
The FBI now has the right to search any suspicious mail packages that might include drugs purchased over darknet marketplaces. Also, the possibility of wide scale government sponsored hacking operation is increased when the FBI aims at taking down darknet drug marketplaces, or botnets that consist of thousands of machines from various parts of the world.
The Department of Justice was seeking this law change for many years. The department thinks that drug vendors should not retain their Fourth Amendment rights when their distributed mail packages are considered. The Rule 41 law change is believed to facilitate prosecuting vendors selling drugs on darknet marketplaces, yet it greatly insults freedom rights and the privacy of users who only use anonymity browsing software to protect their online identities.
As more and more individuals are buying their drugs via darknet marketplaces, many are debating whether or not dark web drug vendors should be able to retain their Fourth Amendment rights within their mail packages. Law enforcement agencies should be meticulous so as not to insult the privacy and human rights of internet users when planning surveillance and seizures of potential dark web drug dealers.