- Google is sharing data with the police
- This may be a useful method of obtaining evidence
- It could also have far-reaching consequences for privacy
- Authorities in Florida sent a request for information on users with recent keywords searched
Google has been talking big about user privacy lately, but how far it can extend as newly released court documents show that Google has given authorities broad swaths of information revealing not just an individual’s search history, but disclosing everyone who has searched for specific keywords at the wrong time.
While search history is traditionally obtained via a warrant put out on a single likely suspect, a recent court case shows that this isn’t the only way, there could be others too.
A court filing unsealed recently shows that authorities in Florida sent a request to Google for information on all users who had searched for a specific address close in time. And Therefore Google cooperated, sending investigators the IP addresses of everyone who had searched for those keywords around the time of that particular crime.
Why google is sharing data with police?
As sharing data may be a useful method of obtaining evidence, it could also have far-reaching consequences for privacy.
The request for the IP addresses falls in a grey area of the law. Police usually would have to narrow their focus to an individual before serving a warrant for information on searches. But keyword warrants are outside the scope of current law language.
Police is issuing Google with a keyboard warrant. This forces them to provide the IP addresses of all users who searched a particular word. Google said that it is trying to balance user privacy with its obligations to police under the law.
How sharing data on searched keywords is violating user’s privacy
The investigation to identify all people in a specific area using location information is unconstitutional.
Unsealed court documents reveal that Google has provided police with information on users simply based on their keyword searches and that violates the civil rights of the users.
This ‘keyword warrant’ evades the Fourth Amendment checks on police surveillance. Keyboard warrants are similar in style to geofence warrants. Here, the police asks Google to provide data on all devices logged in at a specific area and time.