Is Google Location History capable of providing ‘testimony’ to police?

In the era of technology, even the police find smartphones as a great source of proof. According to a source from the New York Times, law enforcement agencies are now seeking information from ‘Sensorvault’ - Google’s mobile Location History database as evidence.

In fact, the trend has significantly increased in the last six months with the company receiving approximately 180 requests in one week.

Additionally, the cases are often not limited to one or two handsets and require Google to scoop up data from ‘hundreds’ of phones – albeit with boundaries.

Many of these requests even ask Google to hand over location info for every device that passed through a certain area over a specific period of time.

The search engine giant claims to anonymize the data as much as possible before handing it over to the relevant authorities. However, the company does provide the police with sensitive information including names and addresses, if more scrutiny is requested by the police officials.

The Location History saved in Google’s ‘bank’ has been available since 2009. Although users do give permission to Google to save their data, they don’t realize that the info is secured with the company for an indefinite time, or that the history is so broad that they provide even the minimal movement to the investigators.


Above all, there are legal concerns associated with Location History data. The United States Constitution calls for limited searches and probable cause but as of yet, no formal ruling has been passed regarding geo-fenced searches.

In many cases, law enforcement agencies don’t properly seal the data provided to them that potentially exposes innocent mobile users.

And then there is the unreliability in the info as the data only provides information from the phone’s Google Account which does not guarantee that the person was present at the scene of the offense.

The same is also not efficient for iPhone owners since only a few percentages of Apple users utilize Google Maps.

In the end, it is safe to say that even though location data is helpful, the chances remain that it would pin the blame on many innocent people.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments below!

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