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Google reports surge in police requests on mobile location data

Investigators have been using Google to find suspects and witnesses near crimes, and now the numbers have surged.

tech Updated: Apr 16, 2019 18:52 IST
Asian News International
Asian News International
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(FILES) In this file photo taken on February 04, 2019 A picture taken on February 5, 2019 shows the Google logo displayed on a tablet in Paris. - Google on April 4, 2019, confirmed that it has disbanded a recently assembled artificial intelligence ethics advisory panel in the face of controversy over its membership. The end of the Advanced Technology External Advisory Council (ATEAC) came just days after a group of Google employees launched a public campaign against having the president of conservative think-tank Heritage Foundation among its members. (Photo by Lionel BONAVENTURE / AFP)(AFP)

As technology becomes indispensable and more data is put out on the web, law enforcement agencies have also started to first see smartphones and web activity to gather evidence.

Companies including Google are often at the crossroads choosing between user privacy and law when it comes to revealing data on users for legal purposes. Investigators have been using Google to find suspects and witnesses near crimes, and now the numbers have surged, Engadget reports.

Law enforcement requests for information from Google’s mobile Location History database, known as Sensorvault, have increased sharply in the last six months, with as many as 180 requests coming in a single week.

Many of these requests come from the ‘geofence’ warrants which require Google to hand over location info for every device that passed through a given area over a specific time period.

At first, the data is anonymised. However, if the information matches the behaviour of a suspect or witness, Google has to provide related names and other sensitive information as well.

This cooperation with the law has its own downsides. One, there is a lack of reliability on the collective location data and second, there are high chances of the data on innocent people getting exposed.

First Published: Apr 16, 2019 18:52 IST