Tech Dirt – May 21, 2009:

One tool in the FCC’s investigative arsenal is the ability to inspect radio gear, like TV stations’ transmitters, but the Commission also says that this extends to things like WiFi routers, cordless and cell phones, remote garage door openers, TV remotes, or “anything using RF energy.” This means that if you have any of those products, or anything with a radio, the FCC thinks it has the right to search your house.

The FCC contends the authority stems from the Communications Act of 1934, but as Threat Level points out, it’s never been challenged in court, mainly because it’s a relatively recent phenomenon for essentially every American household to have so many radio devices.

While it’s unlikely that the FCC will begin raiding homes to confiscate WiFi routers and garage door openers, there is speculation that should FCC agents enter a home and see evidence of unrelated criminal behavior, that evidence can be used for criminal prosecution. This could give law enforcement a potential back door around search and seizure laws, a move which certainly merits some concern.

  1. Greg Allen says:

    Wasn’t it reported on this blog that some poor guy got busted for “stealing” and open wifi connection?

    So, if I see an FBI agent outside my home, can I call the townie cops and get him arrested for stealing my wifi?

  2. Troublemaker says:

    With the release of each one of these stories, several thousand more cases of ammo gets bought.

  3. laxdude says:

    Well, if you are a conspiracy nut then you already have a Faraday cage lining the walls or would not have an RF transmitter in the house.

  4. soundwash says:

    what the hell is going on?

    are these people [i]trying[/i] to create “dissidents” so the Feds and MSM have
    targets to exploit as “newsworthy” domestic terrorists?

    the federal government seems to be sn1iffing glue and foaming at the mouth while reading their latest Right Wing extremest propaganda document from the DHS..

    in the past 4-5 months I’ve heard several patriot / constitutional radio types asking listeners with the means to acquire legal micro AM radio transmitters so they can
    either transmit local news and events in
    the event of radio blackout, or re-transmit
    radio / webcasts in areas where their transmissions do not reach.

    I do not think it is a stretch to assume
    the federalies are looking to squelch any and all public opinion that doesn’t echo it’s own “extremest” agenda.

    It appears they are hard at work looking for any way to circumvent the laws for which they have sworn to uphold.

    how ironic. -how sad.


  5. Mark T. says:

    Of course, if you don’t have a RF TV remote then you have nothing to fear, right?

    This sounds like the excuse the traffic cops use: There was a car matching your vehicle’s description used in recent illegal activity. We have the right to search it for whatever we can happen to find.

  6. Micromike says:

    This is BS. The Constitution is the Supreme Law of the Land and it says they need a warrant.

    I’ve never heard of the FCC making this claim or trying to search anybody who wasn’t running a pirate radio station, and I’m not sure they search the pirates they just take their transmitters.

    We don’t need to see federal agents getting shot for trying to make a warrantless search for a cell phone or wifi gadget.

  7. Troublemaker says:

    Micromike said, on May 21st, 2009 at 8:20 pm

    This is BS. The Constitution is the Supreme Law of the Land and it says they need a warrant.

    Been living under some rock the last 8 years, I see.

  8. Troublemaker says:

    During a meeting with Republican Congressional leaders last month, in which they expressed concerns about renewing the Patriot Act, President George W. Bush reportedly espoused a very low opinion of the Constitution, calling it “just a goddamned piece of paper.”

  9. bill says:

    OK, I may be naive but what would they be looking for?
    secret transmitters? Spy stuff? I have so much wireless junk at my house I bet you can hear it in anther galaxy!

  10. chuck says:

    “We don’t need to see federal agents getting shot for trying to make a warrantless search for a cell phone or wifi gadget.”

    – I’m not worried about the federal agents – they usually have Kevlar. I’m worried about the innocent victim who has 20 federal agents kick in his door in the middle of the night and shoot him – all because he had a WiFi router.

    It hasn’t happened yet, but it could.

  11. soundwash says:

    #6 Micromike..

    -perhaps you have been away?

    the Constitution has been practically null and voided since 9/11..worse, seems the new president is just taking the last presidents
    policies to the extreme.. add to that, congress
    is hell bent on disarming the public. -as soon as that happens, it may be over.

    the fact the US citizens are for the most part, armed to the teeth, has been one of
    the main reason we’ve never been invaded
    or treated as subjects.


  12. Troublemaker says:

    And in other news…

    Computer virus strikes US Marshals, FBI affected

  13. Troublemaker says:

    bill said, on May 21st, 2009 at 8:38 pm

    OK, I may be naive but what would they be looking for?

    The global economy is about to undergo a serious meltdown of unimaginable proportions. All of the anti-terror laws have been put in place, not for the benefit of foreign suspects, but to control domestic ones.

    You’ll see firsthand, in a year or two…

  14. Glenn E. says:

    You’re far more likely to be a serious threat if you have a basement full of guns. But the NRA lobby has managed to protect everyone from law enforcement harassment, over gun ownership. Mainly as it protects the future sales of guns.

    Now if only there were some lobby protecting wireless communication and computer devices. But as people rarely buy these, and they’re relatively cheap (cheaper than some guns). The PC and wireless device makers could care less about protecting its customers. And naturally, Aholes like Dick Cheney used “terrorism” to turn around most of the free speech and anti search protections. Making most of the US Bill or Rights basically meaningless.

    Oh, but of course, all congressmen and ex-VP’s Blackberrys are above all that searchin crap. That stands to reason. As they’d be effected by their own rules and decisions, if they applied to them too. So they don’t.

  15. Jess Hurchist says:

    #12 “the fact the US citizens are for the most part, armed to the teeth, has been one of
    the main reason we’ve never been invaded
    or treated as subjects.”

    I think it’s more to do with the facts that the US
    has a large, well equipped military,
    serious nuclear weapons,
    immense wealth to support the above
    and is miles from any state that could even
    think about it.

  16. bobbo says:

    This is BS as almost expressly admitted in the posted article at the end: “While it’s unlikely that the FCC will begin raiding homes….”==ie==it ain’t happening.

    And when it does happen, there will be a court ruling directly on the matter.

    This is beyond fear baiting, its just masturbating.

  17. Dallas says:

    CHANGE :
    Besides undoing the fascist police state laws from the Cheney administration, President Obama is actively going through the ancient and obsolete laws with the help of the EFF and other civil liberty protection organizations.

    Thank you ACLU, EFF and other organizations for parsing through ancient laws and keeping us safe from government and religious taliban intrusion into our lives.

    Thank you Pres Obama for focusing on the concerns of our domestic issues.

    Thank you Former Pres Bush for shutting the fuck up after you left the office. BBQ’ing was your calling all along.

  18. MikeN says:

    They should investigate these, and couple it with an assessment of their carbon impact. How much energy gets wasted with people running modems and routers when they aren’t online? And how much just for having the wireless router always broadcasting?

  19. jescott418 says:

    Sounds like another paranoid freak. These laws have been on the books for decades. Now all of a sudden we are going to have the FCC going through houses? Please? Take a chill pill and relax.

  20. BillyBob says:

    The RIAA and their cronies must be drooling over this article. (yeah, I’m pretending they weren’t involved).

  21. Greg Allen says:

    >> pedro said,
    >> More change you can believe in?

    Is there no end to your hypocrisy?

    When the Bush Administration SPIED on only-god-knows how many US citizens without a warrant, the conservatives defended the practice every step along the way.

    … an NOW you are worried about privacy?

  22. Greg Allen says:

    >> GetSmart said,
    >> Fortunately, I know how to run wiring for my network. And did so.

    You’d have to be a serious Luddite to get rid of all deliberate RF in your house.

    Cordless and cell phones, of course.

    But TV remotes? Aren’t those usually infrared?

    Even so, “RF energy” would be just about anything that uses electricity, right?

    For example, the rheostat on my ceiling fan creates a horrible racket on my AM radio.

  23. Nimby says:

    Can we get a FUD meter, please?

    Oh, and make it wireless.

  24. Greg Allen says:

    >> pedro said, on May 22nd, 2009 at 3:49 pm
    >> #24 Sorry, I wasn’t present on the FISA vote. You might have mistaken me for someone else.

    So you spoke out against Bush and the conservatives when he was spying on Americans? If so, you were a very very rare conservative, indeed.

    I spoke out, at the time, and I don’t remember a single conservative backing me up. I DO remember them calling me pro-terrorist for defending the constitution.

    However, if you opposed Bush when he was trashing the constitution, then I commend you for being are one of the very rare principled conservatives. I know they exist but, holy smokes man, they sure disappeared during the last eight years.

  25. Wired Less says:

    I love how posts like these bring out the trolls.
    And how, quaintly, some quote the constitutional prohibition against unreasonable search and seizure, a legal concept mortally wounded in the late 20th century and long dead in the 21st, along with the notion of privacy.
    If the officers of the state want to investigate you, they can and will. So can (and do) private enterprises. Enjoy any illusion you may entertain otherwise, but particularly since the “Patriot” Act (an Orwellian name if ever there was one) there is nothing really stopping anyone, except perhaps your friends and some of your neighbors, from finding out whatever they want about you.
    Remember they hate us for our freedoms, so how best to stop the hate? Seems logical to me. (Hope the sarcasm is not too subtle).


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