Coalition of Privacy Groups Demand More Transparency from Google on Geo-Warrant Requests by Law Enforcement

Google tries a fair bit to make it so that it publishes all of the requests that it gets from the various governments of the world with regards to information and the like. With all of that having been said and now out of the way, it is important to note that you often don’t get information about what kind of information is being requested. A controversial activity that Google participates in is the facilitating of geowarrant requests, or dragnet queries, that are usually made by police departments. They make it so that they would get details regarding who made searches that involved specific search queries and keywords, as well as who might have been in a particular location that is close to where some kind of a crime might have been committed.

Because of the fact that this is the sort of thing that could potentially end up compromising on the privacy and security of common citizens, as well as giving undue power to law enforcement agencies that aren’t exactly well known for being fair and open to oversight, a coalition of around 60 different privacy groups have written a letter addressed to Google CEO Sundar Pichai. This letter demands more transparency from Google with regards to these types of things.

More specifically, the letter requests that Google start publishing monthly data that would give details about geowarrants and keyword warrants it has received and facilitated. There have been a number of controversial instances of these kinds of warrants being used, with one example stemming from March of 2019 where a man that was harmlessly riding a bicycle close to a location where burglars were committing a robbery ended up being considered a suspect even though no other evidence pointed to him having done anything wrong.

Since the police departments of the US have a tendency to be a little trigger happy, and they aren’t very good at punishing officers that don’t exactly think before they shoot, a number of legal actions have been taken against such warrants. There have been legal challenges made against these kinds of warrants in three states, namely Illinois, Virginia and New York. This also indicate a bipartisan unease with regards to geowarrants and keyword warrants that could place more pressure on Google to be more transparent.

Part of the reason why so many people don’t want to give Google access to their data is precisely because of the fact that it might just end up being used for these kinds of things. Google is fast approaching an impasse that could determine the future of what data it can collect, how it collects it and how this data can be used.


H/T: Protocol.

Read next: Apple Warns of Impending Crackdown Against Apps That Illicitly Track Users

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