What Is A Keyword Warrant? Inside The Personal Data On Google Searches That Is Sent To Feds

What Is A Keyword Warrant? Inside The Personal Data On Google Searches That Is Sent To Feds


What Is A Keyword Warrant? Inside The Personal Data On Google Searches That Is Sent To Feds. Image credit: wasan prunglampoo / iStock / istock /image modified by Nubai/MoguldomĀ  https://www.istockphoto.com/portfolio/wasan_prunglampoo?mediatype=photography/ istock /modified by mmg

The U.S. government has reportedly been issuing secret keyword warrants for use against internet users who have looked up specific phrases and names.

Federal investigators and law enforcement agencies in the U.S. are reportedly issuing Google, Microsoft and Yahoo with keyword warrants that require them to provide the IP addresses and other personally identifiable information about users who search for specific search terms during a specific period, Screen Rant reported. 

Keyword warrants have been used for years to search for criminals — a controversial practice that came under a spotlight on Oct. 5 in “accidentally unsealed” court documents cited by Forbes. Typically, keyword warrants have not been made public. One exception stemmed from a 2019 investigation in Wisconsin, where authorities were searching for men accused of participating in a minor’s abuse and sex trafficking. Feds issued a keyword warrant to Google.

While keyword warrants may help capture criminals online, they have prompted privacy concerns. Instead of gathering information about a particular suspect, keyword warrants demand details about every individual who searched for a specific keyword during a specific time frame. They can reveal the names, addresses, and other sensitive data about innocent people who might have searched for the same keyword without any malicious intent. 

In 2020, officials issued a keyword warrant to Google requesting information on anyone looking up the address of an arson victim, who was also a witness in the government’s racketeering case against singer R. Kelly, The New York Daily News reported. 

Listen to GHOGH with Jamarlin Martin | Episode 74: Jamarlin Martin Jamarlin returns for a new season of the GHOGH podcast to discuss Bitcoin, bubbles, and Biden. He talks about the risk factors for Bitcoin as an investment asset including origin risk, speculative market structure, regulatory, and environment. Are broader financial markets in a massive speculative bubble?

“Trawling through Google’s search history database enables police to identify people merely based on what they might have been thinking about, for whatever reason, at some point in the past,” said Jennifer Granick, surveillance and cybersecurity counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union, according to Forbes.

“This never-before-possible technique threatens First Amendment interests and will inevitably sweep up innocent people,” Granick said. “Especially if the keyword terms are not unique and the time frame not precise. To make matters worse, police are currently doing this in secret, which insulates the practice from public debate and regulation.”

Image credit: wasan prunglampoo
istock /modified by Nubai/Moguldom