Didn’t think Big Brother could get any worse?
It has been confirmed that federal investigators are issuing warrants for Google.
To be clear, the warrants are not for Google itself.
Rather, federal investigators are demanding that Google reveal the identity of anyone searching “certain search terms.”
Now, we don’t know what these search terms are.
But if history is any precedent, we wouldn’t be surprised if they are targeting Trump supporters.
Or conservatives in general.
More details on this major power grab below:
— Andy Vermaut (@AndyVermaut) October 6, 2021
Exclusive: Government Secretly Orders Google To Identify Anyone Who Has Searched A Name, Address And Telephone Number: There are fears the government is secretly ordering Google to provide information on innocent users who typed in certain search terms.… https://t.co/u6BAQlmfmG pic.twitter.com/BKSmqwuobf
— Harald Schendera (@HSchendera) October 5, 2021
The US govt is secretly ordering Google to provide data on anyone typing in certain search terms, an accidentally unsealed court doc shows. There are fears such “keyword warrants” threaten to implicate innocent Web users in serious crimes & are more common https://t.co/s61QOLDvTE
— Drogon (@drogon_dracarys) October 5, 2021
Here’s the thing:
If it weren’t for the unsealed court documents, we likely wouldn’t know about this.
This appears to have been a covert operation.
What else is Google collaborating with the federal government on?
According to Forbes, it appears the focus is on people searching victims of sexual assault:
The U.S. government is secretly ordering Google to provide data on anyone typing in certain search terms, an accidentally unsealed court document shows. There are fears such “keyword warrants” threaten to implicate innocent Web users in serious crimes and are more common than previously thought.
In 2019, federal investigators in Wisconsin were hunting men they believed had participated in the trafficking and sexual abuse of a minor. She had gone missing that year but had emerged claiming to have been kidnapped and sexually assaulted, according to a search warrant reviewed by Forbes. In an attempt to chase down the perpetrators, investigators turned to Google, asking the tech giant to provide information on anyone who had searched for the victim’s name, two spellings of her mother’s name and her address over 16 days across the year. After being asked to provide all relevant Google accounts and IP addresses of those who made the searches, Google responded with data in mid-2020, though the court documents do not reveal how many users had their data sent to the government.
It’s a rare example of a so-called keyword warrant and, with the number of search terms included, the broadest on record. (See the update below for other, potentially even broader warrants.) Before this latest case, only two keyword warrants had been made public. One revealed in 2020 asked for anyone who had searched for the address of an arson victim who was a witness in the government’s racketeering case against singer R Kelly. Another, detailed in 2017, revealed that a Minnesota judge signed off on a warrant asking Google to provide information on anyone who searched a fraud victim’s name from within the city of Edina, where the crime took place.
While Google deals with thousands of such orders every year, the keyword warrant is one of the more contentious. In many cases, the government will already have a specific Google account that they want information on and have proof it’s linked to a crime. But search term orders are effectively fishing expeditions, hoping to ensnare possible suspects whose identities the government does not know. It’s not dissimilar to so-called geofence warrants, where investigators ask Google to provide information on anyone within the location of a crime scene at a given time.
“As with all law enforcement requests, we have a rigorous process that is designed to protect the privacy of our users while supporting the important work of law enforcement,” a Google spokesperson said.
The latest case shows Google is continuing to comply with such controversial requests, despite concerns over their legality and the potential to implicate innocent people who happened to search for the relevant terms. From the government’s perspective in Wisconsin, the scope of the warrant should have been limited enough to avoid the latter: the number of people searching for the specific names, address and phone number in the given time frame was likely to be low. But privacy experts are concerned about the precedent set by such warrants and the potential for any such order to be a breach of Fourth Amendment protections from unreasonable searches. There are also concerns about First Amendment freedom of speech issues, given the potential to cause anxiety amongst Google users that their identities could be handed to the government because of what they searched for.
“Trawling through Google’s search history database enables police to identify people merely based on what they might have been thinking about, for whatever reason, at some point in the past. This is a virtual dragnet through the public’s interests, beliefs, opinions, values and friendships, akin to mind reading powered by the Google time machine,” said Jennifer Granick, surveillance and cybersecurity counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). “This never-before-possible technique threatens First Amendment interests and will inevitably sweep up innocent people, especially if the keyword terms are not unique and the time frame not precise. To make matters worse, police are currently doing this in secret, which insulates the practice from public debate and regulation.”
This means that what you search online is no longer private.
Google now will turn users over to the federal government if they receive a warrant.
Leftists might argue that the ends justify the means.
The problem, however, is that government power and overreach will always try to expand.
Google helped the federal government arrest January 6 protesters.
A WIRED investigation has found 45 federal criminal cases that cite Google geolocation data to place suspects inside the US Capitol during the January 6 riot. https://t.co/a7yxizmzMS
— WIRED Gadget Lab (@gadgetlab) October 1, 2021
Interesting look at the FBI's use of Google's geolocation data.
This is also a great intro to the privacy implications of those data requests, which are apparently governed by a law passed in '86. https://t.co/KzZcIqw6gD
— Joe Bodnar (@joeabodnar) October 1, 2021
Google provided the geolocation data of users to the federal government.
That’s how they started tracking down January 6 protesters and arresting them.
Isn’t it funny how the government didn’t use Google to hunt down and arrest BLM rioters and protesters?
Wired has more details:
COURT DOCUMENTS SUGGEST the FBI has been using controversial geofence search warrants at a scale not publicly seen before, collecting account information and location data on hundreds of devices inside the US Capitol during a deadly invasion by a right-wing mob on January 6.
While Google receives over 10,000 geofence warrants for location data in the US a year, those covering the Capitol breach appear to have been particularly productive, apparently enabling the FBI to build a large, searchable database in its hunt for the rioters.
Geofence warrants are intended to locate anyone in a given area using digital services. Google has been the target for many geofence warrants because its location technologies, which leverage GPS, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth signals to pinpoint a phone within a few yards, are powerful and widely used.
Investigators can and do also serve warrants on phone companies. However, cell phone towers can only locate phones to within about three-quarters of a mile. While court documents suggest that the FBI collected cell tower records for “thousands of devices that were inside the Capitol” during the riot, Google’s data offers a much higher degree of accuracy.
The use of a geofence search warrant was first reported by The Washington Post, and others have previously noted specific instances of investigations that used Google geolocation data. But WIRED has found 45 federal criminal cases that cite Google geolocation data to place suspects inside the US Capitol on January 6, including at least six where the identity of the suspect appears to have been unknown to the FBI prior to the geofence warrant. One of these involved a serving Chicago police officer.
“I’m terribly concerned about the potential for misuse of that technology,“ says Ari Waldman, professor of law and computer science at Northeastern University. “Even if I think staging a coup against a democratic government is abhorrent, it doesn’t mean that constitutional privacy protections shouldn’t be in place.”
In fact, court documents refer to two geofence warrants relating to January 6, one of which a government filing seems to say was served even as the riot was raging. They were immediately sealed and are unlikely to be made public for years. However, a close reading of hundreds of court filings reveals that both the secretive geofence warrants and further Google-focused geolocation warrants delivered a wealth of information about dozens of suspects.
Geofence warrants are essentially a fishing expedition: Investigators know roughly where and when a crime was committed, and want to find out who might have been nearby at the time. As this would normally include innocent people and bystanders, Google requires law enforcement to go through a three-step process to access the information.
Why aren’t more people upset?
The answer is simple:
Because the media isn’t reporting on it.
So help us spread the news!
Please share this with your family and friends so they know about what’s coming.