Minnesota judge grants warrant for a whole town's search history

By William Gayde ยท 9 replies
Mar 19, 2017
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  1. Search warrants to access a suspect's search history aren't uncommon. Search warrants to access metadata from an entire cell tower are becoming more and more popular, too. What isn't common though, is a search warrant for the internet history of an entire town. While this sounds like something from the "what not to do" chapter in a law textbook, it is happening right now in the town of Edina, Minnesota.

    A thief faxed in a fake passport to a credit union which allowed him to steal $28,500 out of a victim's bank account. Police were notified of the fraudulent transfer and discovered that the photo used on the passport could be accessed by searching Google Images for the victim's name. It doesn't show up in Yahoo or Bing searches, so police are hoping to use Google to help track down their thief.

    The county judge agreed with the police and granted the warrant, which was then served to Google. The warrant, if Google agrees to provide the information, allows the police to collect names, emails, account information, and IP addresses of anyone who searched for the victim's name during a five-week period.

    Googling someone's name isn't illegal, so privacy experts are up in arms over the potential to collect information on innocent users. Possible employers, friends, or anyone who happened to be interested in the victim during the time period in question could have their personal information handed over to the authorities.

    By casting such a wide net, the Edina Police Department are also opening themselves to the possibility of evidence being thrown out before a trial if it is deemed to have been obtained illegally. Google and the Police Department aren't saying much since it is an ongoing investigation, but the full can be viewed on security researcher Tony Webster's website.

    Permalink to story.

  2. davislane1

    davislane1 TS Grand Inquisitor Posts: 4,731   +3,749

    An argument:

    1. Cyberpunk dystopia is a high-tech society controlled by a powerful and all-seeing corporate-government cartel.
    2. Google records every search.
    3. Google records the identity of every user and matches it to those searches.
    4. The government can access and use these records.
    5. Google and government are (functionally) answerable only to each other.
    6. Therefore, Cyberpunk dystopia is real.
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2017
    ForgottenLegion, Yynxs, yRaz and 2 others like this.
  3. Uncle Al

    Uncle Al TS Evangelist Posts: 3,185   +1,864

    So there are some limitations based on previous name searches and, as stated, there is a reasonable chance the searches will be thrown out .... but what happens to the search files? Can the authorities keep them and use them in the future? Hopefully the judge would see that issue and quash the search altogether.
  4. psycros

    psycros TS Evangelist Posts: 1,796   +1,202

    As is so often the case, their attacking the symptom rather than the disease - namely, the relentless efforts of Google, Facebook and the rest of the data mongers to eliminate all privacy and empower cybercriminals (and state surveillance).
  5. Yynxs

    Yynxs TS Addict Posts: 202   +70

    Now that's a bit extreme. Google is just trying stay rich and hide the money in Ireland, the rest of that stuff you mentioned is just side effects and considered 'features' not 'bugs'.
  6. Kibaruk

    Kibaruk TechSpot Paladin Posts: 3,259   +879

    If this had been truth, they wouldn't be asking for a warrant to search it over.
  7. davislane1

    davislane1 TS Grand Inquisitor Posts: 4,731   +3,749

    The government can grant itself access to data for the purposes of "law enforcement" and "surveillance." They do this through regular courts (as seen here) and secret courts (as we see with the NSA, CIA, et. al). Neither one of these judiciary bodies is functionally answerable to anyone other than (1) the major donors who fund their election campaigns and (2) government oversight bodies. Google, likewise, is functionally answerable only to it's major shareholders and government regulators.

    Not only is it true, it's part of the business model for big corporations, prominent politicians, and lawyers.
  8. Kibaruk

    Kibaruk TechSpot Paladin Posts: 3,259   +879

    Tell that to Apple when they didn't want to unlock the phone for them.
  9. Tanstar

    Tanstar TS Evangelist Posts: 600   +169

    There is no way this is a legal search warrant.
  10. davislane1

    davislane1 TS Grand Inquisitor Posts: 4,731   +3,749

    It seems you are missing the point. Government and big corporate are only answerable to their own power cartel. They run the show, not the "public." That one would force or allow the other to do something is proof of the the relationship, not evidence against it.

    How many people want their every keystroke recorded by Google? How many want those records held and accessible by government? Virtually nobody. Whenever these issues come up in the news, there is public outcry about privacy rights and the surveillance state.

    What is Google's response? Collect and archive.

    What is the government's response? Collect and archive.

    The only time they come into conflict is when one of them has something to gain. Like setting legal president for encrypted devices or protecting a brand image.
    Yynxs likes this.

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