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Law enforcement in the US has been using Google’s location history, designed primarily to send you targeted ads, as a tool to solve crimes and track suspects. Apparently, Google is the primary tech company that law enforcement agencies have been using since Apple says they are unable to provide such information to authorities. This development raises privacy concerns.
According to the nytimes.com, in the past six months, there has been an increase in law enforcement requests to have access to specific location history data from Google’s Sensorvault. They use the data to narrow down devices that were in the vicinity of a specific place where a crime was committed.
The “geoface warrant” as they call it compels Google to give the location data under the scope requested by authorities but the tech giant does not attach names or other identifying information.
Authorities then narrow down the number through things like patterns of movement and then they request for further data or ask Google directly for the name, email address, and other data associated with the device.
However, the results of the analysis of the data from the geoface warrants can also be prone to mistakes and errors in identifying suspects, as reported by androidcommunity.com. This policy has already resulted in wrong accusations. The NYT article cited the case of a man who spent a week in jail for a crime he did not commit simply because his phone was detected in the vicinity of a drive-by shooting. They did not consider the fact of multiple log-ins to a phone which was the case in this particular incident.