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Last Updated : Apr 17, 2019 04:40 PM IST | Source: Moneycontrol.com

Google sees surge in the amount of Location Data requests coming in from law enforcement agencies

According to a report by the New York Times, law enforcement’s queries of Google’s Sensorvault has risen sharply in the past six months.

Carlsen Martin

Law enforcement agencies are looking to tap into Google’s massive Location History database. According to a report by the New York Times, law enforcement’s queries of Google’s Sensorvault has risen sharply in the past six months.

Last December, detectives in a Phoenix suburb arrested a suspect in a homicide investigation using his location data. The law enforcement officers told the suspect that they had data tracking his phone to the location where the victim had been shot nine months earlier.

According to the police, the arrest was made after they obtained a warrant that required Google to provide data on all devices it recorded in the area where the crime took place. Investigators already had evidence of a security video of someone firing a gun from a car, but the evidence was circumstantial as the license plate of the vehicle wasn’t visible.

As of now, it is still unclear how often authorities ask the search giant to produce results from its Location database. The technique can be used to generate leads by specifying the geographic location of a device at a particular time. According to the New York Times, the number of requests can go up to 180 in a single week.

Most of these requests are made courtesy of a ‘geofence’ warrant. The warrant asks Google to hand over location information of devices that pass-through a given area at a particular time. A geofence warrant is an impressive tool in an investigator’s arsenal.

However, critics say it resembles a fishing expedition that raises constitutional questions, which raises questions about the ethics of the entire process. And, while the technique has been proven to work, there are multiple cases captured by the New York Times that show how police have used this data to accuse innocent people considering the broad nature of requests and data.
First Published on Apr 17, 2019 04:40 pm
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