Google Search Tactics In Criminal Cases Challenged By Privacy Advocates: Report – Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOG), Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOGL)

Civil liberties advocates are raising concerns about law enforcement’s use of Alphabet Inc’s (GOOG, GOOGL) search data in criminal investigations, citing potential privacy rights violations. The controversy stems from a 2016 rape case in Pennsylvania, where police obtained information from Google using a search warrant. Google responded by providing the IP address of a user who had searched for the victim’s address, leading to the arrest and conviction of a corrections officer.

However, organizations like the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, along with its Pennsylvania chapter, argue that this investigative technique, known as a keyword search warrant, is dangerously broad and poses a threat to innocent people’s privacy rights. They claim that these warrants are essentially digital dragnets, allowing the government to rummage through individuals’ most private information.

Michael Price, the Litigation Director of NACDL’s Fourth Amendment Center, stated, “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.”

The controversy surrounding keyword search warrants has gained attention, particularly following the Supreme Court’s abortion-related decision. Privacy advocates fear that these warrants, along with geofence warrants, could be misused to prosecute 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, further raising concerns about the broader use of Google’s search data. However, the court emphasized that its findings were specific to the case, leaving room for hope in Pennsylvania.

Following a Bloomberg Businessweek investigation, Google recently stopped responding to geofence warrants in December. This policy change has heightened the need for courts to evaluate the constitutionality of keyword search warrants, which may gain popularity as law enforcement agencies seek new investigative tools.

It remains to be seen how the Pennsylvania Supreme Court will rule on the constitutionality of keyword search warrants. The outcome of this case will have significant implications for privacy rights and the scope of law enforcement’s access to individuals’ digital information.

In the age of increasing technological advancements, striking a balance between effective law enforcement and protecting privacy rights is a pressing challenge. As technology continues to evolve, it is crucial for lawmakers and courts to carefully consider the potential implications for civil liberties and ensure that individuals’ privacy rights are adequately protected.

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