For anyone who’s online in Texas or anywhere else in the world, Google is almost impossible to avoid. The company’s search engine has reached such global popularity that the name has become synonymous with looking something up.
The other side of the information age
Google users are subjected to both explicit and implicit data collection. This is part of the company’s efforts to turn as much profit as possible on top of their advertising revenue.
Police officers often turn to Google because of the amount of data the company collects. It may be the first place they’ll turn to investigate a crime, particularly if there isn’t an obvious suspect.
Police will sometimes use keyword warrants for people who have searched for specific terms within a particular geographic area. However, geofence warrants come up more often.
After a crime, the local police department issues the warrant to Google. This formal request for information applies to every device near where the crime was committed, known as a partial identifier. In so doing, it casts a wide net as a starting point, and the hope is that the criminal will be caught as police pursue these suspects.
Police often have free reign
Among the issues with this type of warrant is that, in most cases, courts don’t closely monitor warrant affidavits. This means police are free to ask for any information they want under the assumption that it will help with the investigation.
This type of warrant can be misused in criminal law if judges aren’t paying close attention. To compound the issue, some police intentionally mislead judges into believing that the desired information is more pertinent to the case than it actually is.
Many have pointed out that these warrants infringe upon people’s rights. They argue that geofence warrants are too broad. Additionally, it has been argued that warrants should be motivated by a belief that the information is related to the crime in question. With geofence warrants, the motivation is merely that Google has the information that the police want.