Google is giving data to police based on search keywords, court docs show

There are few things as revealing as a person’s search history, and police typically need a warrant on a known suspect to demand that sensitive information. But a recently unsealed court document found that investigators can request such data in reverse order by asking Google to disclose everyone who searched a keyword rather than for information on a known suspect.

In August, police arrested Michael Williams, an associate of singer and accused sex offender R. Kelly, for allegedly setting fire to a witness’ car in Florida. Investigators linked Williams to the arson, as well as witness tampering, after sending a search warrant to Google that requested information on “users who had searched the address of the residence close in time to the arson.”  

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Customs And Border Protection Bought Half A Million Dollars Worth Of Location Data

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) just got its hands on a whole bunch of location data. The news service Motherboard (Vice’s technology segment) uncovered a procurement order for $476,000 paid to the company Venntel Software last month. Venntel specializes in location data mining, compiling and selling GPS data gathered on users from various phone apps.

Sources who work with Venntel gave Motherboard more insight into the type of data the government now has its hands on.

Venntel’s technology only gives anonymized data, meaning it does not identify specific people or phone numbers. It gives only a randomized identification number. BUT there is an easy way to identify the owners of the phone.

The technology allows the CBP to draw a perimeter around a geographical area, and obtain the location data for any phones in that area. In this way, CBP could draw a circle around one particular home, acquire the data from it, and surmise that the few devices in that home belong to the homeowners.

What this means:

This allows Customs and Border Protection to ignore laws that require them to obtain a warrant before surveilling particular subjects. They simply purchase the data, instead of having to show probable cause that a crime has been committed.

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DOORBELL CAMERAS LIKE RING GIVE EARLY WARNING OF POLICE SEARCHES, FBI WARNED

THE RISE OF the internet-connected home security camera has generally been a boon to police, as owners of these devices can (and frequently do) share footage with cops at the touch of a button. But according to a leaked FBI bulletin, law enforcement has discovered an ironic downside to ubiquitous privatized surveillance: The cameras are alerting residents when police show up to conduct searches.

A November 2019 “technical analysis bulletin” from the FBI provides an overview of “opportunities and challenges” for police from networked security systems like Amazon’s Ring and other “internet of things,” or IoT, devices. Marked unclassified but “law enforcement sensitive” and for official use only, the document was included as part of the BlueLeaks cache of material hacked from the websites of fusion centers and other law enforcement entities.

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