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Report: Government Demands Google Identify People Searching for Sexual Assault Victims Personal Info

Report: Government Demands Google Identify People Searching for Sexual Assault Victims Personal Info

Google gets a “keyword warrant.”

Forbes reported that the government demanded Google to identify people searching for a sexual assault victim’s personal information. This includes name, address, and telephone numbers.

Forbes wrote about a 2019 federal investigation in Wisconsin. Authorities believed some men “participated in the trafficking and sexual abuse of a minor.”

The search warrant said the girl went “missing that year but had emerged claiming to have been kidnapped and sexually assaulted.” More:

In an attempt to chase down the perpetrators, investigators turned to Google, asking the tech giant to provide information on anyone who had searched for the victim’s name, two spellings of her mother’s name and her address over 16 days across the year. After being asked to provide all relevant Google accounts and IP addresses of those who made the searches, Google responded with data in mid-2020, though the court documents do not reveal how many users had their data sent to the government.

The government gives Google a keyword warrant (emphasis mine):

It’s a rare example of a so-called keyword warrant and, with the number of search terms included, the broadest on record. (See the update below for other, potentially even broader warrants.) Before this latest case, only two keyword warrants had been made public. One revealed in 2020 asked for anyone who had searched for the address of an arson victim who was a witness in the government’s racketeering case against singer R Kelly. Another, detailed in 2017, revealed that a Minnesota judge signed off on a warrant asking Google to provide information on anyone who searched a fraud victim’s name from within the city of Edina, where the crime took place.

While Google deals with thousands of such orders every year, the keyword warrant is one of the more contentious. In many cases, the government will already have a specific Google account that they want information on and have proof it’s linked to a crime. But search term orders are effectively fishing expeditions, hoping to ensnare possible suspects whose identities the government does not know. It’s not dissimilar to so-called geofence warrants, where investigators ask Google to provide information on anyone within the location of a crime scene at a given time.

A Google spokesperson said the search engine has a “rigorous process that is designed to protect the privacy of our users while supporting the important work of law enforcement.”

The answer does not satisfy those who value privacy. People have concerns about the legality and possible implication of innocent people.

The government claimed the scope of the warrant kept them from implicating innocent people because the number of people searching for those specific terms “in the given time frame was likely to be low.”

Jennifer Lynch, surveillance litigation director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told Forbes about three other warrants:

After publication, Jennifer Lynch, surveillance litigation director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), highlighted three other Google keyword warrants that were used in the investigation into serial Austin bombings in 2018, which resulted in the deaths of two people.

Not widely discussed at the time, the orders appear even broader than the one above, asking for IP addresses and Google account information of individuals who searched for various addresses and some terms associated with bomb making, such as “low explosives” and “pipe bomb.” Similar orders were served on Microsoft and Yahoo for their respective search engines.

As for what data the tech companies gave to investigators, that information remains under seal.


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It took a minute but I figured it out. It means women claiming to have been assaulted, presumably by some current politician or business scion. The people who know that guy and think it doesn’t sound like him at all wonder what else the accuser has done.

So it’s a fake news preservation move. Due process not allowed.

The rule should be if there’s no police report filed at the time, it didn’t happen. That quasi-guarantees it’s not a change-of-mind thing, and that enough evidence is still around for both parties to defend themselves.

A lot of business deals turn into sexual assault later.

I’m not sure this qualifies as a true warrant under the Constitution. Nor do I understand what jurisdiction the feds have to even ask for one.

I have no problem with the police using public information, such as a phone book (or online equivalent) to develop a list of possible suspects. But this really does seem like an overreach.

    henrybowman in reply to irv. | October 6, 2021 at 11:32 pm

    What this article fails to point out, but I have seen in other reports on this issue, is that the names of the victims are only known to the searchers in the first place because the government itself fucked up.
    In some cases, they published the warrants with the name of the victim included and unredacted. Other times, they were “clever” enough to replace her name with “Victim Number One,” but still idiots enough to publish her Facebook URL verbatim.
    Talk about “entrapment defenses,” there’s one you could drive a Taliban 4WD Limo through.

I think the NSA, and anyone to the right access to their data. could provide this information. Or an interested ‘contractor’ with the right access (see Ally Bank-Trump Hoax).

But not legally. And probably not easily. Not that either would deter a determined FBI.

However, it’s easier to get it from Google using a warrant.

Or maybe they’ve already got the information from NSA databases but need the cover of a legal warrant issued to Google.

I find this story impossible to take seriously at face value. Since when have the Feds been worried about collecting evidence? We have been treated to numerous examples where Federal authorities simply make up things to support their preferred positions. The J6 “insurrection”, the “murder” of Brian Sicknick, Waco, Ruby Ridge, the Russia hoax, the Whitmire “kidnapping plot” – the list goes on and on. More recently, the Biden* junta has screeched about the supposed “white nationalist” and “parents = terrorists” threats without offering a single particle of evidence to back up their wild stories. Simply put: the Feds don’t bother with evidence much anymore.

Moreover, Google has a history of voluntarily working with totalitarian governments (China) to suppress political dissent and human rights. They have done this voluntarily WITHOUT the prodding of dictatorial bureaucrats.

I suspect this story is not anywhere close to what actually happened.

    But they’re not “collecting evidence.” They’re “fishing” for somebody to pin it on.

      Oh, the Feds are fishing, all right! But not for information to try to nab the perps in the case mentioned in the article. They are likely collecting information to identify “racists” (read: anyone who does not bow the knee to the Biden* junta).

      The Forbes story is a head fake. I will bet the real purpose of the warrants had nothing to do with the case mentioned in the article.

Search with DuckDuckGo. Use a VPN. Or go one better than both with the TOR browser. DDG is on our browsers and one of three VPN’s is used when away from home. Routinely for a convenient browser it’s Firefox first choice and Brave second choice because they work very well. TOR browser is slow but secure and available for use. Google and Microsoft browsers? Not on your life!

Not that I think the gov’t will consider little old me an enemy of the people, but it’s always a good idea to have options available. I like options.

Pardon the paranoia.

    nordic_prince in reply to DSHornet. | October 6, 2021 at 9:07 pm

    You can take things a step further and use browser isolation.

    Dathurtz in reply to DSHornet. | October 6, 2021 at 9:18 pm

    Hell, you are probably a terrorist just for buying a vpn.

      daniel_ream in reply to Dathurtz. | October 7, 2021 at 10:22 am

      The day is coming when the use of any kind of encryption or privacy shield software will be highly regulated or outright illegal.

      I am old enough to remember when RSA encryption over 40-bit keys was considered a munition and illegal to export out of the US. There was a T-shirt with five lines of perl implementing the algorithm printed on the front and “This Shirt Is A Dangerous Munition” printed on the back. Simply by wearing the shirt through customs you were, technically, exporting arms.

nordic_prince | October 6, 2021 at 9:08 pm

Why anybody at this point is using Google any more than is absolutely “necessary” is beyond me.

Hm. So the government will investigate creeps who search for information on other people in a list in order to protect their privacy. Interesting.

It brings up the question: How can I get on that list? Because I don’t like randos poking their curious noses into my stuff, and I might as well get some use out of my tax dollars.