The United States government is now secretly giving warrants forcing Google to give user data on people searching certain terms, causing fears that innocent web users might get caught up in serious criminal investigations at a greater frequency than once thought.
In a drive to track down some people, federal police have started using brand new “keyword warrants” and used them to request that Google give information on people who searched for a victim’s name or their address during a certain year, an accidentally revealed court document has revealed.
Google has yet to respond to thousands of warrants every year, but the keyword warrants are a new strategy being used by the government and are very controversial.
“Going through Google’s search database enables law enforcement to find people simply based on what they could have been thinking about, for any reason, at some time in the past,” Jennifer Granick, cybersecurity official at the ACLU, said to Forbes.
“This never-before-seen tactic threatens the First Amendment and will inevitably target innocent people, especially if these keywords are not unique enough and the timing is not precise enough. To make issues worse, police are currently working on this in secret, which insulates them from public discourse and debate along with regulation,” she said.
The government said that the warrant scope is limited to avoid targeting innocent Americans who happen to search for some terms, but it is not publicly known how many Americans’ data are now being sent to the government and to what extent of the warrant requests are.
Google has defended its choice to go along with the warrants and gave a comment about it guarding its users while doing so.
“As with all police requests, we have a strict process that was created to protect the privacy of users while also supporting the work of police,” a Google spokesperson said.
There is no known set of keywords that could get you into trouble with the Feds. But if we had to guess, they might be interested in conservatives who search for “open borders,” “anti-white,” and “white genocide,” among other interesting searches that conservatives can do.
Author: Blake Ambrose