Skip to main content

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

Identifying IP Address That May Have Connected to a URL Doesn’t Amount to Probable Cause
PRESS RELEASE
January 29, 2019

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

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. The warrant application’s only connection to the defendant’s home was based solely on the attempted URL link, but included no information on how or why the defendant encountered the weblink, if he had any knowledge of what it linked to, or whether he ever accessed or downloaded the password-protected files.

EFF Criminal Defense Staff Attorney Stephanie Lacambra will argue that the mere fact that someone clicked on a weblink is not sufficient to support a search warrant. All of us have clicked on links without knowing where they would take us—or have gone to websites that were not what we were led to believe they were. 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. That’s just how the Internet works.

Lacambra will argue that in this case law enforcement could have, and should be required to obtain additional contextual information to justify a search warrant.

What:
Hearing on U.S. v. Nikolai Bosyk

When:
Thursday, January 31 at 8:30 am

Where:
U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
Panel III, Blue Courtroom (Room 339)
Lewis F. Powell, Jr. United States Courthouse & Annex
1000 - 1100 E. Main Street
Richmond, Virginia 23219

For EFF's amicus brief in the case:
https://www.eff.org/document/amicus-brief-40

Back to top

JavaScript license information