Privacy Experts Alarmed By Police Use of Google Locating and Search History

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Experts and advocates have raised concerns about a growing trend among law enforcement agencies to use Geofence location warrants, reverse search warrants, and keyword search warrants to target and track individuals based on their data usage, often making them suspects in crimes they have nothing to do with, reports The Guardian. Google revealed for the first time in August that it received 11,554 geofence location warrants from law enforcement agencies in 2020, up from 8,396 in 2019 and 982 in 2018.

Experts argue that geofence and other broad warrants such as those that ask companies to sift through keywords people searched for are akin to a general warrant, made illegal by the fourth amendment right against unreasonable searches and seizures. Unlike other kinds of search warrants, which are targeted and seek information about people who law enforcement has probable cause to believe has committed a specific crime, these warrants don’t have a particular person in mind.  While there is legislation in the works that would impose safeguards on other means of getting hold of vast swaths of sensitive location data, such as cell site simulators and the outright sale of that information, there isn’t currently a publicly known congressional effort to do the same for geofence warrants.

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