This report from today's Wall Street Journal
is fascinating. It involves the decision of a Magistrate Judge to deny a government application for a search warrant in which the government proposed to install surreptitious software on the target computer (putatively owned and operated by the criminal suspect). Among many interesting twists to the case, the government did not know exactly where the target computer was -- only that it thought it had probable cause to believe that the computer had been used in a crime (theft from a bank). So the computer might even have been overseas. According to the Journal, Judge Stephen Smith said, in his opinion:
among other things that the FBI needs to do more to ensure that information from innocent people isn't gathered using such tools. He said it is easy to hide true Internet Protocol addresses and that the government "has offered little more than vague assurances" that it would be able to minimize the amount of data gathered from people not involved in criminal activity.
So here's an interesting and ironic thought -- maybe one of the reasons we need to authorize private sector hack back is because the Federal government can't do it!