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Quite the World, Isn't It?

WiFi + FCC = Warrantless Search?

There's a bizarre story over at Wired that explores something I hadn't seen before. If you have a wireless system in your house, the FCC asserts, then federal inspectors have the right to warrantless entry.

According to the piece, for years the FCC has used the Communications Act of 1934 to enter properties in search of rogue radio stations and other violators of federal communications licenses covering use of radio frequencies (RF). That used to be limited to pirate radio and ham operators, the only folks with radio transmitters in their homes. The reasoning is similar to that under which fire and health inspectors are allowed to make warrantless entries to businesses. But the FCC says we're all suspects, in a sense.

From Wired: “Anything using RF energy — we have the right to inspect it to make sure it is not causing interference,” says FCC spokesman David Fiske. That includes devices like wireless routers that use unlicensed spectrum, Fiske says.

The piece goes on to cite cases in which FCC inspectors entered properties without warrants, didn't find what they were looking for but did find evidence of unrelated illegal activity, and the Supreme Court upheld the convictions.

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