The following article, Google Handing Over Keyword Search Data to Feds Sparks Privacy Concerns, was first published on Flag And Cross.
We have all seen it coming, yet chose to be somewhat indifferent on the subject. Now, as Big Tech continues to invade every aspect of our lives, Americans are scrambling for some privacy.
The latest affront to our perceived online sovereignty comes to us from Google, who’ve been providing the federal government with information pertaining to our keyword searches, targeting specific terms and specific dates along the way.
Worse still…the government is trying to hide this from us.
In 2019, federal investigators in Wisconsin were hunting men they believed had participated in the trafficking and sexual abuse of a minor. She had gone missing that year but had emerged claiming to have been kidnapped and sexually assaulted, according to a search warrant reviewed by Forbes. In an attempt to chase down the perpetrators, investigators turned to Google, asking the tech giant to provide information on anyone who had searched for the victim’s name, two spellings of her mother’s name and her address over 16 days across the year. After being asked to provide all relevant Google accounts and IP addresses of those who made the searches, Google responded with data in mid-2020, though the court documents do not reveal how many users had their data sent to the government.
It’s a rare example of a so-called keyword warrant and, with the number of search terms included, the broadest on record. (See the update below for other, potentially even broader warrants.) Before this latest case, only two keyword warrants had been made public. One revealed in 2020 asked for anyone who had searched for the address of an arson victim who was a witness in the government’s racketeering case against singer R Kelly. Another, detailed in 2017, revealed that a Minnesota judge signed off on a warrant asking Google to provide information on anyone who searched a fraud victim’s name from within the city of Edina, where the crime took place.
And while we can all agree that human trafficking is something we should be throwing our every effort into eradicating, there are serious concerns that this slippery slope could lead us to further erosion of our online privacy rights.
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