Police use Google to track potential suspects

Remigio Civitarese
Апреля 16, 2019

These devices are initially given anonymous ID numbers and police will review the data to assess location and movement patterns that might be a possible fit for the crime. Google calls the database of information on where users have been Sensorvault.

The database, that is otherwise maintained to collect user-information from Google products for ad targeting, contains detailed location records from hundreds of millions of phones from around the world, CNET reported on Saturday.

"The New York Times interviewed a man who was arrested past year in a murder investigation after Google's data had reportedly landed him on the police's radar".

Google confirmed a request for Location History details have been on the rise in recent times, with one official claiming having received about 180 requests in one week alone.

For geofence warrants, police carve out a specific area and time period, and Google can gather information from Sensorvault about the devices that were present during that window, according to the report. While the police could also pull similar data from a carrier's records of cell phone (Android or iPhone) to tower pings, the Google data is much more accurate with regard to a specific vicinity thanks to your smartphone's Global Positioning System. Law enforcement can get "geofence" warrants seeking location data.

"We vigorously protect the privacy of our users while supporting the important work of law enforcement", the report quoted Richard Salgado, Director of law enforcement and information security at Google as saying.

According to Google, it only ever provides police with access to this data when required to do so by law. "We have created a new process for these specific requests designed to honour our legal obligations while narrowing the scope of data disclosed", Salgado added. Once the field has been narrowed to "a few" devices, Google then provides police with the names and email accounts associated the movements police are interested in.

"The government could extend this breach of privacy and demand that Apple build surveillance software to intercept your messages, access your health records or financial data, track your location, or even access your phone's microphone or camera without your knowledge", Cook wrote.

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