Civil liberties advocates are reportedly challenging law enforcement’s use of Alphabet Inc GOOG GOOGL search data in criminal investigations, raising concerns about privacy rights.
Following a 2016 rape case in Pennsylvania, police sought information from Google using a search warrant, reported Bloomberg. Google responded with the IP address of a user who had searched for the victim’s address, leading to the arrest and conviction of a corrections officer.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and its Pennsylvania chapter argue that the investigative technique, known as a keyword search warrant, is dangerously broad and threatens innocent people’s privacy rights.
“Keyword search warrants are digital dragnets giving the government permission to rummage through our most private information, and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court should find them unconstitutional,” stated NACDL Fourth Amendment Center Litigation Director Michael Price, Bloomberg noted.
A lawyer for the defendant and a representative for Google did not immediately respond to requests for comment from Bloomberg.
The controversial use of keyword search warrants has gained attention, especially following the Supreme Court’s abortion-related decision. Privacy advocates fear these warrants, along with geofence warrants, might be misused, potentially prosecuting individuals in states where abortion is illegal.
In October, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that evidence obtained from a keyword search warrant could be used in a murder case, raising concerns about the broader use of Google’s search data.
However, the court emphasized its findings were specific to the case, leaving room for hope in Pennsylvania, according to EFF Surveillance Litigation Director Andrew Crocker, Bloomberg added.
Following concerns raised by a Bloomberg Businessweek investigation, Google ceased responding to geofence warrants in December.
This policy change has intensified the need for courts to evaluate the constitutionality of keyword search warrants, which may gain popularity as police seek new investigative tools, Crocker noted.
This content was partially produced with the help of AI tools and was reviewed and published by Benzinga editors.