Google is sharing keyword search data to help cops track down suspects
Your data is truly never your data.
By this point, everyone should understand that their data is never truly safe. Unless it’s on a jump drive that you store in Curtis‘ weird tin-foil lined shack out in the swamps of Florida, there is the possibility that your data can be hacked, stolen, or obtained through a vague search warrant that targets everyone that searched a term during a specific time frame.
Obviously, due to our very specific example, today we’ll be talking about the latter case. It has been revealed that law enforcement has used Google search history to identify a suspect in an arson case involving R. Kelly. Long story short, there was an SUV set on fire. The SUV belonged to a witness in a racketeering case against R. Kelly. Law enforcement issues a warrant to Google, who handed over search data that helped lead law enforcement to a suspect.
Essentially, law enforcement wanted information on searches made involving a specific address in the time before the SUV was actually set on fire. Law enforcement found one example of this and tied it to a suspect, one that was attached to R. Kelly’s publicist. From there, officers obtained location data from Verizon, and as they say, the rest is history.
Now, the suspect’s lawyers are saying that the search warrant that was used to obtain the initial information infringed on their client’s rights. They are saying that typically, search warrants are used on a specific group of people, but that a blanket search like the one used could be “misconstrued or used improperly,” according to Engadget.
It definitely brings up an interesting discussion on consumers’ rights when it comes to search engines like Google. The company has defended its position, with Google Director of Law Enforcement and Information Security, Richard Salgado, releasing a statement: “We vigorously protect the privacy of our users while supporting the important work of law enforcement. We require a warrant and push to narrow the scope of these particular demands when overly broad, including by objecting in court when appropriate. These data demands represent less than 1% of total warrants and a small fraction of the overall legal demands for user data that we currently receive.”
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