Privacy experts are concerned about Google location data being used by law enforcement to try and find crime suspects.
Police in the U.S. have been known to take out something called a ‘geofence warrant’ that can result in Google handing over your data.
According to a report in The Guardian, the Gainesville, Florida, police department requested Google hand over information about a man called Zachary McCoy after a routine bike ride took him past a crime scene.
McCoy was said to receive an alarming email from Google in January 2020 informing him that the police had requested his user data.
He had seven days to go to court if he wanted to block the release of his Google data.
It was later revealed that this request was due to a burglary that had happened at a home on his bike ride route in 2019.
Police had obtained McCoy’s Google location data at the time via a geofence warrant.
The connection between his location and the site of the crime meant the police wanted to access more data about McCoy.
Google recently revealed that it received 11,554 geofence location warrants from law enforcement last year.
“It said 8,396 had been requested in 2019.”
Caleb Kenyon, McCoy’s defense attorney, told the Guardian: “As long as the data exists, all it takes is a creative law enforcement officer to say, ‘Hey, we can get a warrant or we can send a subpoena for this particular subset of the data that’s already being harvested.
They’re coming up with everything they can to do their job. That’s all it takes for the next type of [reverse] search warrant to come about.
Geofence warrants can lead to anyone who was near a crime scene becoming a suspect until further investigation rules them out.
There have also been concerns raised about keyword search warrants, which can be used to look for people who have searched a certain word or phrase online.