Google Search Tactics In Criminal Cases Challenged By Privacy Advocates: Report – Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOG), Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOGL)

By: Alex Freidmen

Privacy Advocates Challenge Google’s Search Tactics in Criminal Cases

The Battle Against Digital Dragnets

Civil liberties advocates are pushing back against law enforcement’s use of Alphabet Inc’s search data in criminal investigations. Concerns about the protection of privacy rights have been raised following a 2016 rape case in Pennsylvania, which prompted police to obtain information from Google using a search warrant. This led to the arrest and conviction of a corrections officer after Google provided the IP address of a user who had searched for the victim’s address. However, privacy advocates argue that this investigative technique, known as a keyword search warrant, is overly broad and poses a threat to innocent people’s privacy rights.

The Legal Landscape

The Electronic Frontier Foundation and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, along with its Pennsylvania chapter, have suggested that keyword search warrants are akin to digital dragnets that allow the government to sift through individuals’ most private information. In response, Michael Price, the NACDL Fourth Amendment Center Litigation Director, has called for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to declare them unconstitutional. The use of keyword search warrants has garnered attention, particularly in light of the Supreme Court’s abortion-related decision, with concerns that misuse of these warrants could result in the prosecution of individuals in states where abortion is illegal.

In a separate case, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that evidence obtained from a keyword search warrant could be used in a murder case, sparking broader concerns about the potential ramifications of using Google’s search data. However, the court emphasized the specificity of its findings to the case, indicating a glimmer of hope in Pennsylvania, according to EFF Surveillance Litigation Director Andrew Crocker.

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New Concerns Emerge

Following an investigation by Bloomberg Businessweek, Google ceased responding to geofence warrants in December, thereby intensifying the need for courts to assess the constitutionality of keyword search warrants. With law enforcement continually seeking new tools for investigations, the scrutiny of these warrants is likely to grow.

The Path Forward

As conversations on privacy and law enforcement tactics continue, the debate over the use of Google’s search data will likely remain a central issue, raising questions about how to balance effective criminal investigations with the protection of individual privacy.

This content was partially produced with the help of AI tools and was reviewed and published by a broader editorial team.