New court documents show that law enforcement have been using reverse “keyword warrants” which asks Google for details on any number of people, suspected or not, who searched a specific query on Google.
Law enforcement is increasingly turning to Google and asking them for help with investigations, with critics calling the methods overly invasive and even unconstitutional.
The method is similar to geofence warrants, where law enforcement receives a list of people who were around a specific location during a date and time. This method, called keyword warrants, asks for data tied to individuals who made a specific keyword query on Google during a period of time.
These kinds of requests have been dramatically increasing over the past few years, increasing by 1,500% from 2017 to 2018 and 500% from 2018 to 2019.
Critics have deemed this method unconstitutional because of its broad, sweeping nature and because it could uncover personal details of innocent people and many who aren’t suspected of committing any crime. Critics have also pointed fingers at Google for being too willing to comply with these requests and collecting such identifiable data in the first place.
To reduce the amount of data Google collects (and can give law enforcement), you can opt for a private search engine like DuckDuckGo and make sure location tracking and history are turned off (if you use an iPhone, consider using Apple Maps instead of Google Maps).
To learn more about how law enforcement makes data requests to Google, check out cnet’s article here.