US law enforcement authorities can now search for people's files that have been shared on peer-to-peer file sharing networks, without a warrant. A judge in Baton Rouge, Louisiana ruled that files shared on such platforms are publicly available and the person sharing files cannot expect privacy. The case involves Justin Landry, who allegedly used BitTorrent to share child pornography.
Law enforcement authorities reportedly found Landry using a special software called "Torrential Downpour", which is exclusively sold to police to help them monitor the BitTorrent network for child pornography.
Landry reportedly requested that the evidence collected from BitTorrent be suppressed as the undercover cop who searched his files on the network, did not have a warrant to do so. However, on 9 March, Judge John W. deGravelles ruled that the undercover cop investigating the case did not require a warrant to search Landry's files, as the suspect was not protected by the 4th Amendment, since Landry had made the files public in a shared folder.
"Files which an individual voluntarily places in a shared folder on a peer-to-peer network are considered publicly available," the judge wrote in the ruling, according to a report by Motherboard.
EFF lawyer Andrew Crocker believes that the courts need to clearly differentiate between accessing private areas of an individual's computer and public folders. "It's important for courts to understand that we all have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the contents of our computers," Crocker said. "Of course, when you place files in a public folder, you may have no idea who's accessing them—your neighbor or the police."
Landry had admitted to searching and downloading child pornography and a "fetish for infants engaged in sexual intercourse," at the time of his arrest, Mic reported. Landry is accused of five counts of possessing and distributing child pornography. He currently faces 20 years in prison for each of those counts.