A federal court ruled on Tuesday that the Department of Homeland Security has 30 days to disclose its plans for an “Internet kill switch,” The Washington Free Beacon reports.
In order to prevent terrorists from using cell phones to remotely detonate bombs, DHS developed secret protocols, called Standard Operating Procedure 303, to govern how the agency would direct the shutdown of wireless networks in the event of an emergency.
The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) has been battling the agency since July 2012 to release the protocols — considered “Internet kill switch” — to the public.
On Tuesday, the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia ordered DHS to disclose Standard Operating Procedure 303 to EPIC within 30 days, rejecting the agency’s argument that maintaining the secrecy of the protocols would protect national security.
The court did, however, grant the agency a 30-day window to appeal the decision.
The choice to shutdown wireless networks in an emergency is troubling to civil libertarians.
During the Boston Marathon bombing, for example, cell phone traffic overloaded the networks, making it difficult for people to communicate — and rumors circulated that law enforcement had shut down the networks to prevent further attack by potential remote bombs.
Those rumors were later denied by the network carriers.