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Playpen: The Story of the FBI’s Unprecedented and Illegal Hacking Operation

Friday, October 7, 2016 0:25
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Playpen: The Story of the FBI’s Unprecedented and Illegal Hacking Operation

By: Mark Rumold
Date: 2016-09-15

In December 2014, the FBI received a tip from a foreign law enforcement agency that a Tor Hidden Service site called “Playpen” was hosting child pornography. That tip would ultimately lead to the largest known hacking operation in U.S. law enforcement history.

The Playpen investigation—driven by the FBI’s hacking campaign—resulted in hundreds of criminal prosecutions that are currently working their way through the federal courts. The issues in these cases are technical and the alleged crimes are distasteful. As a result, relatively little attention has been paid to the significant legal questions these cases raise.

But make no mistake: these cases are laying the foundation for the future expansion of law enforcement hacking in domestic criminal investigations, and the precedent these cases create is likely to impact the digital privacy rights of Internet users for years to come. In a series of blog posts in the coming days and weeks, we'll explain what the legal issues are and why these cases matter to Internet users the world over.

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