Privacy and security on the Internet are becoming a very large issue, especially after the CIA surveillance systems that Wikileaks had released to the rest of the world to see. The trust in government and the various agencies has been declining.
It has recently been discovered that Google may be giving contact information of any individual that had searched for the name of a financial fraud victim near Edina, Minnesota. An application for a search warrant, found by journalist Tony Webster, revealed documents from local law enforcement that demand Google to forward “any/all user or subscriber information” of anyone who had been searching the victim’s name on the large search engine. This information consists of email addresses, payment information, MAC addresses, Social Security numbers, dates of birth, and IP addresses.
If Google does decide to cooperate with law enforcement, the future may be one where privacy is more of a luxury than it is a right. By giving user information away, Google is paving the road for potential manipulation of user information in the future. Furthermore, this warrant would change investigative procedures where police would search through a suspect’s devices, looking for evidence “by using administrative subpoenas and search warrants to compel internet and communication providers to identify anyone matching certain parameters.” While this information would clearly be useful to the local authority, it directly challenges the fundamental ethics Google abides by.
The actual reason behind this warrant was an application to wire transfer $28,500 from a Minnesota banker. The customer seemed to have legitimate credentials, but a faxed copy of his passport was deemed to be fake, beginning an investigation looking into the identity theft case. Webster explained that the “The Edina Police Department figured out that while searching Google Images for the victim’s name, they found the photo used on the fake passport, and investigators couldn’t find it on Yahoo or Bing. So, they theorized the suspect must have searched Google for the victim’s name while making the fake passport,” indicating that the police was able to see user information through Yahoo and Bing.
The theory that the theft used Google to search for the victim was enough to issue a search warrant that requested to search for “names, email addresses, account information, and IP addresses of anyone who searched variations of the victim’s name over a five-week period of time.” The issue with this warrant is that it would indirectly target people who had unintentionally searched the victim using Google’s search engine. The main argument against giving this information away is that innocent people would definitely be put through legal conflict and have potentially detrimental effects.
Although Google has not officially responded, it has been reported that Google is fighting the request, advocating for user privacy and ultimately preventing any further identity theft in the future.
Featured image via Pixabay.