The Department of Justice in October 2013 seized Silkroad in what could easily be history’s largest Internet drug bust and what the department itself termed as a victorious drug raid of massive proportions. Along with the bust came the arrest of the alleged owner, Ross William Ulbricht and seizure of about four million dollars’ worth of bitcoins. Part of this procedure however breached privacy laws as the FBI did not seek a warrant to hack into the overseas servers that hosted the TOR network Silkroad relied on for anonymity.
The pre-trial motion filed by Mr Ulbricht’s defense teamargues that the FBI hacked into Silk Road’s servers without obtaining appropriate warrants thereby violating Mr Ulbricht’s privacy. Silkroad had been on FBI’s radar since its inception in 2011. Undercover agents began buying drugs on the site then but marketplace is hosted on a Tor network and this obscures the users’ IP addresses and prevents both users and their transactions from being traced. The servers of the Tor network that provided Silkroad with anonymity and which were hacked by the FBI are located in Iceland.
The case prosecutors however thinks the alleged mastermind of Silkroad cannot claim violation of privacy because he has not admitted owning the Icelandic server that hosted his alleged online black market. In failing to lay claims, the prosecution says that Mr Ulbricht has failed to prove that his fourth amendment and privacy rights were violated. The prosecution further adds that Mr Ulbricht’s acts of omission fail to prove that he indeed has privacy interests on the server in Iceland and any other items associated with Silkroad that were searched or seized. To establish privacy rights, the Silk Road’s mastermind needed to show he has personal privacy interests in the server or searched property and not just the affirmation that such searches led to Silk Road’s seizure and his arrest. Prosecution also stated that fourth amendment rights do not include searches conducted by foreign law outside the United States.