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Does the law make a distinction between:

(1) Servers I own that are physically located in my house.

(2) Servers I own that are co-located at a hosting facility.

(3) (physical) Servers that I am renting from a hosting facility.

(4) Virtual servers that I am renting from a hosting facility.

I assume that most law enforcement officials feel that 2-4 shouldn't need a warrant because they are not located in my house, so therefore I don't get protection from unreasonable search/seizure.

Also, at what point do #3 or #4 start to encroach onto Dropbox-esque territory where I own the data, but they are holding it for me under contract?




In the first two cases, you are talking about your own property. Unless you have a contract with the colocation facility that says otherwise, the presence of your machine at such a facility shouldn't somehow make it searchable, just like if I put a closed briefcase full of papers down in a public library and walk away from it for 5 minutes, the police cannot suddenly search that.

As I understand it, things are shakier in case (3) and (4), because your provider absent a contract with you that says otherwise could choose to comply with subpoenas (providers commonly claim that they'll respond to LEOs only if they have a "subpoena or a warrant", as if that was a feature; you should assume that subpoenas are mere formalities and that any LEO can obtain one practically on demand). It's possible that your remedy in such a case would be civil, which would be cold comfort if your goal was to have evidence excluded from a trial.

There are a bunch of lawyers on HN now, and I'm sure one of them will jump in here to correct me.

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