Home / Badge Abuse / For the First Time, Police Ask for Entire City’s Google Searches and the Court Says Yes

For the First Time, Police Ask for Entire City’s Google Searches and the Court Says Yes

Edina, MN — An Orwellian precedent is underway just outside of Minneapolis, Minnesota, which could be the downfall of internet freedom as we know it. Police in Edina, MN, have been granted a warrant requiring Google to determine everyone in an entire city who has used its search engine to look up a specific term and identify them to authorities.

The case doesn’t involve some massive terror plot to destroy an entire city or a high-level child trafficking ring. It is for a wire-fraud crime — worth less than $30,000. However, if Google caves to the warrant, it could set off a precedent that will undoubtedly be used by police across the country.

According to Ars Technica, investigators are focusing their probe on an online photo of someone with the same name of a local financial fraud victim. The image turned up on a fake passport used to trick a credit union to fraudulently transfer $28,500 out of an Edina man’s account, police said. The bogus passport was faxed to the credit union using a spoofed phone number to mimic the victim’s phone, according to the warrant application.

According to the warrant, Google must help police determine who searched for variations of the victim’s name between December 1 of last year through January 7, 2017.

The ominously worded warrant makes some chilling demands — all over a small fraud case.

A Google search, the warrant application says, as reported by Ars Technica, reveals the photo used on the bogus passport. The image was not rendered on Yahoo or Bing, according to the documents. The warrant commands Google to divulge “any/all user or subscriber information”—including e-mail addresses, payment information, MAC addresses, social security numbers, dates of birth, and IP addresses—of anybody who conducted a search for the victim’s name.

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Independent journalist and public records activist, Tony Webster discovered the warrant and posted photos of it online. He has also expressed the grave reality surrounding such broad and sweeping dragnets — and their ability to sweep up innocent people in the process.

According to Webster:

But search warrants require supporting probable cause, not just mere suspicion or theory. For that reason, “anyone-who-accessed” search warrants like Detective Lindman’s can be risky to execute, as evidence could potentially be thrown out in a pretrial motion. Moreover, it’s possible that such a wide net could catch completely routine and non-criminal searches of the victim’s name by neighbors, prospective employers or business associates, journalists, or friends.

 

Could this type of search warrant be used to wrongly ensnare innocent people? If Google were to provide personal information on anyone who Googled the victim’s name, would Edina Police raid their homes, or would they first do further investigative work? The question is: what comes next? If you bought a pressure cooker on Amazon a month before the Boston bombing, do police get to know about it?

Prior to the actual warrant, Edina police sent Google an administrative subpoena “requesting subscriber information for anyone who had performed a Google search” for the victim’s name. However, according to the documents posted by Webster, Google easily refused to comply with that order as it does not have a judge’s signature.

However, after Google balked at complying, authorities pushed back even harder.

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“Though Google’s rejection of the administrative subpoena is arguable, your affiant is applying for this warrant so that the investigation of this case does not stall,” officer David Lindman wrote the judge in the warrant application.

The good news is that Google, while they declined to specifically address the warrant, appears to be fighting it.

“We aren’t able to comment on specific cases, but we will always push back when we receive excessively broad requests for data about our users,” Google said in an e-mail to Ars.

If Google does comply with this order, the implications for what comes next are shocking, to say the least. Political activists, peaceful anti-establishment folks, and any generally but peaceful subversive individual could be identified and rounded up through this process. If ever there was a time to change your habits and begin using startpage.com, it is now.

As the Free Thought Project has previously reported, Google maintains a record of not only your entire search history but also your browsing history and voice recordings of all sounds associated before and after you say the words, “Okay Google.”

If you would like to know how to find out what Google has on you, how to stop it, and how to clear all of your data from their database, you can do so by clicking this link. 

Matt Agorist is an honorably discharged veteran of the USMC and former intelligence operator directly tasked by the NSA. This prior experience gives him unique insight into the world of government corruption and the American police state. Agorist has been an independent journalist for over a decade and has been featured on mainstream networks around the world. Agorist is also the Editor at Large at the Free Thought Project. , Steemit, and now on Facebook.
  • john smith

    insanity

  • Gary Smith

    Google will be all too happy to comply.

    • ThreeRing

      When there’s a court order, you have to.

  • permalink

    All the more reason to use duckduckgo to search within an “inprivate” browser…

  • Bob Btme

    startpage uses Google ads! what’s up with that. I’m staying with duckduckgo.com

  • lauraroberts

    I respectfully disagree with you and here is why.

    It may a “small” fraud to the folks who posted this, but to the man who was robbed, it may be his life savings. They have obtained a LEGAL warrant rather than doing it on their own.

    We already know through Wikileaks, that they have the tech to do so without a warrant. Google needs to make sure that the warrant covers what they are asking for and then honor it.

    Fraud and illegal activity is just that, illegal. If the warrant checks out, Google should honor it. Remember to that man who was robbed, $28, 500 dollars is a huge deal to the average joe on the street.

    The free thought project is wrong in this case. Because that warrant is looking for evidence for that one crime, even if they found something else, they cannot act on it without another warrant specific to that crime. If they do, even a public defender can have the charges thrown out unless it pertained to an eminent threat to this country.

    Now if you read the article the bank accepted a PASSPORT which was forged. That my friends involves homeland security. And I might add that Minneapolis Minnesota is a hotbed of Somalian refugees.

    While I understand your worries, I do believe in this case you are wrong. At least this time they did do a warrant.

    • Sam Taylor, Jr.

      laura, you’re completely discounting/ignoring/ignorant to the complexities and applications of this case. This has major implications far beyond a simple fraud case.

      • ThreeRing

        What, it allows them, when faced with a case in which a criminal’s actions can be anticipated, to go get a list of the people who engaged in a very narrowly defined search of the victim’s name? Do you know how legal precedent even works? Did you read beyond the clickbait headline?

        • Sam Taylor, Jr.

          Fourth Amendment: “…no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” You cannot claim that you have probable cause to believe that ALL of the people you are requesting info about are involved in the crime at hand.

          If you had the legal acumen that you are implying, you’d understand that the scope of their warrant-for-seizure needs to be much more narrow (focused) than that. And if YOU understood legal precedence, you’d understand that that is exactly why warrants like this have been turned down every time until now. This is not a writ-of-assistance, and while they seem to have found a pliable and none-too-bright judge to issue it, it won’t stand up to an appeal to a higher court…

    • SweetDaddyPatty

      I don’t understand why you mentioned that Minneapolis hosts a large number of refugees

      • Basalat Raja

        You are expected to be scared of refugees. Looks like you haven’t had enough media exposure yet. Stop reading and thinking for yourself and watch more TV “news”.

    • fairpricetickets

      You’re setting a precedent for drag netting.

      The next step will be asking for people who searched for the term “bomb” or “(any term the want)”

      Look up administrative warrants. Police are allowed to sift through passenger lists of customers that fit a certain criteria. Then they will search these customers (https://www.wired.com/2012/08/administrative-subpoenas/)

      The point is, they shouldn’t be able to monitor the actions of every citizen to solve one crime. There’s a balance between security and privacy; this is setting a dangerous precedent, especially when petty crimes are being used as justification for a constant state of surveillance.

  • Edward Allen Teach

    You cannot “erase” things from google. Once they record it, it’s there forever. All you can actually do is slightly restrict access.

  • Furor Teutonicus

    WHAT name? nCome on people, we could SWAMP this!!!

  • Andrew Winn

    Fuck the police

    Pieces of crap

  • ThreeRing

    Clickbait headline. The court did not give them an entire city’s google searches. The court allowed an order requiring Google to tell them who searched for a particular phrase in a particular span of time.
    If you searched for other phrases from the same place during that time, EVEN IF YOU SEARCHED FOR THE TARGETED PHRASE, the police still don’t know.

  • Robert Smith

    Good luck with the request for the MAC address

  • Basalat Raja

    The whole premise of this is wrong. Google isn’t the only search engine out there. So are they then going to go to Bing and then all of them?