2 min readPolice uses Google to determine your location and search history

This September 16, 2021 article written by Johanna Bhuiyan and published by The Guardian discusses the latest law enforcement tool utilized by the police.

Law enforcement can now use reverse search warrants to find suspects for a particular crime. To define, reverse search warrants means that the law enforcement is still looking for their suspect and they are asking tech companies to give them a list of people to investigate. There are two ways that reverse search warrants can be granted. Through a geofence warrant, and through a keyword search warrant.

Under the geofence warrant, “anyone in a certain place at a certain time becomes a suspect and is subject to further investigation which could mean giving police even more of their user data”. Meanwhile, in keyword search warrants anyone who searched for a certain phrase or address becomes a suspect.

This article from Bhuiyan discusses the implications of using these tools and the vulnerabilities they present. Privacy advocate Albert Fox Cahn, founder of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project says, “We can’t ignore that these technologies are sold within legal regimes where if you create a tool to address one set of crimes, you can’t refuse, when governments are forcing you to use them to identify other sorts of crimes like political dissent and religious expression.” Caleb Kenyon, a defense attorney who is familiar with geofence warrants says this: “Every single time one of these warrants is signed, it erodes a little bit of the bedrock of protections we have under the law”.

Editor’s Note: This article drives home the reality that our online data can now be used against us. How much longer would it be before the presumption of innocence is completely outlawed? Are we approaching a future where arbitrary arrests on the basis of online user data will become a standard practice?

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