United States v. Tagg, No. 17-1777 (6th Cir. 2018)Annotate this Case
The FBI obtained access to the physical computer running Playpen’s “dark” website, which contained significant child pornography, and kept the website running to catch its patrons. The site required a browser “mask” to conceal users’ IP addresses, so the FBI placed a digital bug in the fabric of the website, to create a digital fingerprint. After collecting identifying data on Playpen’s individual users, the FBI sought separate warrants, explaining how they cross-referenced the user’s digital fingerprint with an IP address, the "Playpen" items the user had viewed, and the physical location of the computer. distinguishing the machine from others at the same address. The warrant affidavit outlined Tagg’s five hours on Playpen but did not state whether Tagg actually viewed or downloaded illegal files. The magistrate approved the warrant, stating that officers had established probable cause that Tagg violated 18 U.S.C. 2252A(a)(5). Searching Tagg’s home, police found 20,000 child pornography files on his personal computers. The Sixth Circuit found the warrant valid. Visiting a website containing child pornography creates a reasonable inference that the user has stored child pornography on a computer; that the website contains both legal and illegal material does not automatically negate probable cause. An officer of reasonable caution would suspect that Tagg had accessed Playpen with “intent to view” child pornography, and that evidence would be found on his home computer. Tagg browsed the site for an extended period, clicking on blatant child pornography advertisements.