Unfortunately, as it has just turned out, they have already found ways around this obstacle. According to the just published court document, American investigators often resort to a trick, namely, instead of asking for information about a known suspect, they submit a request to Google for disclosure of all users who searched for a specific keyword. It was this way that contributed to the arrest of Michael Williams, an associate of singer R. Kelly accused of sexual crimes - investigators linked the man to arson and witness manipulation, sending Google a warrant to provide information on all users who "looked for the address of residence." close to arson '.
Court data shows that Google shared the IP addresses of people who searched for the address of the burned mansion, and one of them was able to link to Williams' phone number - after checking the call history, it was possible to confirm the presence of the suspect's device near the site of the arson. The original warrant sent to Google has still not been released, but recent reports clearly show the growing trend of inquiries from police officers who, instead of asking for specific people, point to entire groups focused on specific searches. This situation also causes many problems for the American giant himself, who, as he emphasizes, on the one hand wants to protect the privacy of users, and on the other must act in accordance with the law.
Because although we hear many voices that such behavior is unconstitutional: - The keyword order bypasses the Fourth Amendment in terms of police surveillance. When the court authorizes the transfer of data to any person who was looking for a specific date or address, it violates the technology advices - explains Albert Fox Cahn, executive director of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project, so far Google is obliged to comply with the rules. The giant also assures that such applications constitute only 1% of all legal submissions to the company, but unfortunately refuses to provide specific numbers for the last 3 years.
Returning to the Williams case, when the investigators had already linked him to the case, they sent another order to Google, this time concerning his account, which allowed to establish that he was looking for phrases such as "where to buy a custom machine gun", "intimidation of witnesses" or "Countries without an extradition treaty with the United States." Everything is clear on this, right? On the one hand, yes, and on the other, as the Williams defender explains, the search history itself should not be sufficient proof, because people out of curiosity look for different things on the Internet and it's hard not to admit him a bit right: - Many people may look for different things. This in itself should not be enough. Let's think about the consequences in the future when each of us may be questioned by investigators after searching for something at home. One might be interested in how people die in a particular way, or how drugs are produced, which could be misinterpreted and misused.